Understanding The Need For Proper Estate Tax Planning

By: Kris Koonar

The government provides estate tax as a levy against the taxable estate of a deceased person. Taxable estate is gross estate that is reduced by some allowable deductions. The value of an asset is determined on the basis of "fair market value" or the amount that it would fetch if sold in the open market. Every benefactor needs to have a personal representative who will be choosing the date for valuation to ascertain the asset's value.

It can either be the date when the benefactor dies or six months later. The date of alternative valuation is followed only if there is lower tax incidence. The estate's liability for taxation starts with the death of the benefactor and it is paid out of the estate before the property is distributed to the beneficiaries. Unless there is an extension the estate tax needs to be paid within nine months from the day the benefactor dies.

Estate tax planning is essential if you want to preserve your wealth for the coming generations. In order to start planning, you need to know the potential estate tax liability. According to the law that was enacted in the year 2001, whatever you own will be subject to the federal estate tax when you die, until 2010. There will be no federal taxation on the estate till 2010. This law will expire by the end of 2010.

No financial plan can be considered complete without estate planning. It is the best method of preserving the assets you have for your future generations. Many people think of estate planning as legal wills. They need to know that it is not a will but a series of legal steps through which they can allow beneficiaries to avoid the probate and minimize the incurred taxes. Estate planning helps you get a direct control on how you will like your asset to be treated when you die.

Till the year 2005 there was no estate tax levied on the first 1.5 million dollars of the net estate, but there will be an increase in the basic exemption level in 2009 to 3.5 million dollars. Although this tax will be removed in 2010, it will be reinstated to an exemption of 1 million dollars in 2011. There are many ways through which you can bring about a reduction in estate tax. One technique is to gift the asset during your lifetime. Since 2006, the federal tax law permits every individual to gift approximately 12000 dollars every year to as many people as possible without incurring gift tax.

Another option would be to give such gifts every month when alive instead of giving a lump sump after death so that the taxable estate can be reduced. Stocks, business or a percentage of ownership in real estate can also be given as a gift till it is below the 12000 dollars amount. There is no estate or gift tax applicable if you are transferring assets to your spouse in your lifetime, irrespective of the amount. But the surviving spouse should marry again and transfer the property to the new spouse in order to be able to enjoy the unlimited marital deductions.

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