New Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount and California Death Tax (2021 Update)

2021 Federal Estate Tax Exclusion Amount
Matthew Odgers

Matthew Odgers

Attorney and Co-Founder of Opelon LLP

What is the New Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount in 2021?

In 2021 the federal estate tax exemption is 11.7 million for an individual or 23.4 million for a married couple.

So how does this affect you? 

Put simply, this will only affect you if the total value of your estate exceeds the tax exemption amount.

So that’s it?

Unfortunately no. While the estate tax has traditionally been a concern, most estate planning in California has shifted to probate avoidance planning.

While you may not have to pay an estate tax, without a proper trust in place, you will have to pay unnecessary probate fees if your assets are not properly placed into a trust.

What happens if your estate is over the estate tax exemption amount?

Then we should talk. If your estate is over the estate tax exemption amount, then your estate will be required to pay a flat 40% estate tax on everything over the threshold.

This can, however, be avoided through advanced estate planning and protection planning. To learn more about some of these strategies visit our asset protection services page.

The federal estate tax exemption rate slightly increased from 2020 when it was $11,580,000 per person and  $23,160,000 for a married couple.

The new 2021 Estate Tax Rate will be effective for the estate of decedents who passed away after December 31, 2020.

Keypoints

Federal Estate Tax Exemption in 2021

  • 11.7 Million for an Individual
  • 23.4 Million for a Married Couple

California Estate Tax in 2021

  • California does not collect an estate tax.

Resources

Estate Tax, Federal Exemption, Gift Tax, 2021, Tax Planning

What is the Federal Estate Tax in 2021?

The federal estate tax is a tax imposed by the IRS on all property that is transferred from an estate after a decedent’s death. The Estate Tax is not imposed until the total value of an estate exceeds meets a certain threshold.

That threshold is called the Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount. Estates whose value exceeds the exemption amount are taxed at the federal estate tax rate of 40% in 2021.

The total value of an estate is found by taking the fair market value of the decedent’s assets at the time of death (not when they were purchased).

This is commonly referred to as the decedents “Gross Estate”. After the decedent’s Gross Estate is determined the estate representatives may take certain deductions which will lower the value of the decedent’s Gross Estate.

What is left is the “Taxable Estate”. If the Taxable Estate value is over the current Federal Estate Exemption amount, then the estate will be required to pay the Estate Tax on all amounts over the exemption amount.

Example of How The Federal Estate Tax Exemption Works:

Federal Estate Tax Exemption

Portability: What happens to the Federal Estate Tax if you are married?

The “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010” allows the executor, trustee, or personal representative of an estate to elect to transfer any amounts of the estate tax exclusion that were not used for the decedent’s estate, to the decedents surviving spouse.

This concept is called portability. In order to use portability, the surviving spouse must file IRS form 706.

The surviving spouse may then apply the transferred estate tax exclusion amount received from the estate of their deceased spouse, to offset any tax liability stemming from any future transfers upon death or lifetime gifts.

What new Federal Estate Tax Exemption Means for Estate Planning and your tax rate?

Federal Estate Tax Exemption 2021

In the past basic estate planning has included some form of tax planning. With the increase in the Federal Estate Tax rate in 2012 and the recent increase in 2021, middle-class families are not required to pay an estate tax.

In California estate planning is still highly recommended for anyone who:

  1.  owns real estate;
  2. has assets valued over 150,000; or
  3. those with minor children.

Setting up a well-drafted estate plan and trust will allow you to avoid going through probate. For individuals who are over the exclusion, the amount of taxes can still be avoided with proper estate planning and asset protection.

Does California have a Death Tax in 2021?

Luckily, residents of California do not need to worry about the California Estate Tax. California does not collect an estate tax.

What is California's death tax or inheritance tax in 2021?

The “Inheritance tax” or “death tax” are simply synonyms for Estate Tax. California does not have an inheritance tax or a death tax in 2021.

With that said, California residents still have to pay the Federal Estate Tax. Again, as noted, it is still important to put in place an estate plan so that your estate avoids probate. 

Historical Estate Tax Exclusion Amounts and Federal Tax Rate Chart

The Value of your Business is Included in the Total Value of your Estate when Calculating your Tax Rate

As a business owner or professional practice owner, your business is likely a large part of your wealth. Thus, the value of your business may put you over the total value of your estate over the tipping point for having to pay the federal estate tax.

There are many strategies to put in place a business succession plan to avoid including your business in your total estate value.

With that said, it is imperative that you plan ahead of time.

Regardless of whether you are a sole proprietor, LLC, corporation, partnership, or Professional Corporation, this will help you make sound decisions for the successful transfer of your business. All while saving on unnecessary transfer and estate taxes.

office, man, laptop

How Can Opelon LLP Help You Plan to Maximize Tax Savings For Your Estate?

If you are concerned about having to pay the federal estate tax, or unsure about your tax rate, let the estate planning attorneys at Opelon LLP help you create a strategy to offset any tax liability.

We offer free consultations as well as in-person and virtual meetings. You can schedule an appointment directly by clicking here or by calling our office a call.

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