Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
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Estate tax limit will rise in 2018

Many Washington State residents who are thinking about their estate plan will not be under the impression that the current debate regarding the estate tax will influence them and their heirs. They will frequently believe that the total value of their assets will not reach the level at which heirs will be taxed. In many cases, that is true. But in some, it is not. Keeping track of the amount that the Internal Revenue Service will exempt on an inheritance is important, especially with the current political climate centered around repealing the federal estate tax.

In 2018, the exemption for the estate and gift tax will be $5.6 million for an individual. This is an increase from $5.49 million. For a couple, it will be $11.2 million. A testator can leave up to these amounts to heirs and the heirs will not have to pay taxes on it. There is also a gift exclusion that is protected from taxes. For 2018, that will rise to $15,000. It has been $14,000 since 2013. The exemptions are contingent on inflation levels.

The gift exemption is a useful way to provide a defined amount to heirs without concern as to taxes the recipient might face. That $15,000 can be given to as many people as the testator wants. Also, it is not limited to one gift per couple, so if a couple would each like to give $15,000 each to an heir, it can do so and the heir would not face the tax yet get double the amount.

There is also marital deduction that allows legacies to one's spouse to transfer tax free. So, if the amount of $11.2 million for a couple is surpassed, the assets can be left to the spouse without facing the estate tax.

For those who are concerned about distribution of assets and the estate tax, legal help is crucial to understanding the various laws that are currently on the books and might be subject to change. It is similarly important to understand scheduled changes such as the rise in the estate and gift tax limits. With any estate plan matter, discussing the situation with an attorney can help to formulate a coherent and comprehensive strategy.

Source: forbes.com, "IRS Announces 2018 Estate And Gift Tax Limits: $11.2 Million Per Couple," Ashlea Ebeling, Oct. 19, 2017

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