Death and Taxes: Planning for Both

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Death and Taxes: Planning for Both

When you die, the assets and property interests you leave behind minus any debts make up your estate. Whether your assets go through probate or you have set up alternative means for transferring your property, any estate or other taxes owed at the time of your death must be paid. While taxes cannot be avoided, an estate planning attorney at Law Offices of Nicholas P. Barone in White Plains, NY, can help you minimize your estate's tax burden as much as possible.

Taxable estate

When someone passes away, he or she leaves behind a taxable estate. The taxable estate is not the same as the probate estate and can be significantly larger than your probate estate. Your taxable estate includes:

  • All your property interests. This includes any property interests you own and property interests in a trust controlled by you outright or by a trust to which you have significant "strings attached."
  • All your qualified retirement plan proceeds. Qualified retirement plan proceeds are included unless you retired no later than 1984. Persons retiring no later than 1984 may qualify for a full or partial exclusion of these proceeds.
  • All life insurance proceeds. Proceeds from life insurance policies owned by you at the time of your death or payable to your estate.

Estate taxes

Federal estate taxes are imposed on property transferred at death. In addition, many states also impose estate or inheritance taxes on the same property. The amount of the tax is set on a gradual scale which increases with the size of the estate. These taxes decrease the amount of the share that ultimately will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Gift taxes

One way to minimize the amount of estate taxes that must be paid upon death is to transfer property while still alive. While there is a gift tax imposed on these types of transfers, many can take advantage of the gift tax annual exclusion and the gift tax exemption to make tax-free transfers.

Gifts that qualify for the annual federal gift tax exclusion are not subject to gift tax and do not count against the lifetime exemption. The gifts you give each year beyond the annual exclusion are totaled and may be subject to the gift tax. Given the complexities of estate and gift taxes, it is important to work with a tax professional to take full advantage of these exemptions.

Speak to an estate planning lawyer

The tax issues surrounding your estate can be quite complex. An experienced estate planning attorney at Law Offices of Nicholas P. Barone in White Plains, NY, will help you address your tax issues and minimize the impact taxes have on your beneficiaries.

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