What Are Estate Taxes and How Do They Work?

  • November 20th 2023

by UrbanTurf Staff

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Estate taxes, also known as inheritance taxes or death duties, are taxes imposed on the transfer of an individual's assets upon their death. They are levied on the estate left behind by a deceased individual before the assets are passed on to their heirs or beneficiaries. Estate taxes are governed by specific laws and regulations, and they can significantly impact the distribution of wealth among heirs. This article will provide a more in-depth look at estate taxes. 

How Estate Taxes Work

When a person passes away, their estate is evaluated to determine its total value, including cash, real estate, investments, retirement accounts, business interests, and personal belongings. The value of this estate is then subject to taxation by federal and sometimes state governments, depending on the jurisdiction.

The government sets a certain exemption limit for estates, which means only estates exceeding this limit are subject to estate taxes. For instance, in the United States, the federal government applies an estate tax only to estates valued above a certain amount, which can change over time based on tax laws in place.

Estate Tax Exemptions and Rates

Exemption limits define the threshold above which an estate becomes taxable. In some regions, only the portion of the estate exceeding this exemption is taxed. Tax rates on estates that surpass the exemption limit are determined based on a progressive scale, meaning higher estate values incur higher tax rates.

The U.S. federal estate tax exemption was $12.92 million per individual in 2023, and will rise to $13.61 million in 2024. However, any estate value exceeding this threshold was taxed at rates starting from 18% and could go up to 40% for the portion exceeding the exemption.

Estate Planning and Strategies

Individuals often employ various strategies to minimize the impact of estate taxes on their wealth transfer. Some common methods include setting up trusts, making use of annual gift exclusions, establishing life insurance policies, and creating charitable trusts or donations.

Trusts can be structured to hold assets separately from the estate, potentially reducing the taxable amount. Moreover, gifting assets during one's lifetime can lower the overall value of the estate subject to taxation.

State Estate Taxes

As mentioned above, some states impose their own estate or inheritance taxes, with varying exemption thresholds and rates. New York, Massachusetts, and Oregon have their own estate tax systems, and individuals residing in these states should consider both federal and state estate tax implications in their estate planning.

See other articles related to: estate taxes

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/what_are_estate_taxes_and_how_do_they_work/21708.

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