NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.
Currently only a handful of states and the District of Columbia collect a state estate tax. Below is a chart that lists which states collected state estate taxes from 2009 through 2013, along with each state's respective state estate tax exemption. Summary of Changes to State Estate Tax Laws
Here is a summary of the changes that took effect with regard to state estate tax laws between 2009 and 2013:
Delaware enacted a state estate tax that was only supposed to be effective for deaths occurring between July 1, 2009 and July 1, 2013. Nonetheless, in the spring of 2013 the Delaware legislature acted to eliminate the sunset of the tax.
Two states saw their estate tax exemption increase on January 1, 2010: Rhode Island's exemption increased to $850,000 and Connecticut's exemption increased to $3,500,000; however, see more on these two states below.
Two states saw their state estate tax disappear on January 1, 2010, due to state legislative action: Kansas and Oklahoma.
On June 27, 2011, S.L. 2011-330 was signed into law by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue. This law clarifies that the North Carolina estate tax does not apply to the estates of decedents who died in 2010 but will apply to the estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2011 with a $5,000,000 exemption, which is indexed for inflation in 2012 and future years.
Illinois saw its estate tax disappear on January 1, 2010 due to repeal of the federal estate tax, and despite the retroactive reinstatement of the federal estate tax, Illinois' tax did not come back automatically like in North Carolina. Nonetheless, the Illinois legislature acted quickly at the beginning of 2011 to reinstate the Illinois estate tax for the 2011 tax year with a $2,000,000 exemption. However, in December 2011 the Illinois legislature acted to increase the exemption to $3,500,000 in 2012 and $4,000,000 in 2013.
*Hawaii brought back its state estate tax effective May 1, 2010. Note that although the Hawaii estate tax exemption appears to be set at $3,500,000 for deaths occurring before January 26, 2012, in calculating the tax due the tax really does not kick in until the estate exceeds $3,600,000. In May 2012, Hawaii tweaked its estate tax laws to provide that the Hawaii estate tax exemption will be tied to the federal estate tax exemption for decedents dying after January 25, 2012.
The Rhode Island estate tax exemption will be adjusted for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2011 based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index rounded to the nearest $5.00.
Vermont's estate tax exemption was increased to $2,750,000 effective January 1, 2011.
On May 4, 2011, the Connecticut estate tax exemption was retroactively decreased from $3,500,000 back down to $2,000,000 for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2011.
On June 30, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the 2012 - 2013 budget into law, which eliminates the Ohio estate tax effective for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
On January 1, 2012, the name of Oregon's death tax changed from an "inheritance tax" to an "estate tax." In addition, while the Oregon estate tax exemption (formerly inheritance tax exemption) remains at $1,000,000 for 2012 and future years, the tax will only apply to the value of an estate in excess of $1,000,000 (under prior law once an estate exceeded $1,000,000 the tax applied to the entire estate). The estate tax rates have also been changed for 2012 and future years such that the majority of estates valued between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 will pay slightly less in taxes and estates valued over $2,000,000 will pay slightly more in taxes. Note that on November 6, 2012, Oregon Ballot Measure 84, which would have repealed Oregon's estate tax by 2016, was defeated, so it does not appear that Oregon's estate tax will be repealed any time soon.
Effective January 1, 2013, Maine's estate tax exemption increased to $2,000,000 and the estate tax rate has been lowered.
In May 2012 Tennessee repealed its state gift tax retroactively to January 1, 2012. In addition, the Tennessee estate tax (referred to as an inheritance tax in the Tennessee statutes) will be phased out by 2016.
In June 2013, Washington tweaked its state estate tax laws in several ways that will affect the estates of decedents who die on or after January 1, 2014. First, the $2,000,000 exemption will be indexed for inflation on an annual basis. Second, the estate tax rates for the top four brackets will increase by one percentage point. Finally, certain family-owned businesses will receive an estate tax exemption of up to $2,500,000.
In an unusual move, Minnesota enacted a state gift tax that went into effect on July 1, 2013. Aside from this, Minnesota tweaked its estate tax laws as they are applied to nonresidents who own real estate in Minnesota. The new legislation includes Minnesota property held in a pass-through entity such as an S corporation, a partnership (including a multi-member LLC taxed as a partnership), a single-member LLC or similar entity, or a trust in a nonresident's estate.
In July 2013, North Carolina's estate tax was repealed retroactively to January 1, 2013.
State Estate Tax Rates
For information about current state estate tax rates, refer to the 2013 State Death Tax Exemption and Top Tax Rate Chart. State Inheritance Taxes
For information about state inheritance taxes, which are not the same as state estate taxes, refer to the State Inheritance Tax Chart.
State Estate Tax and Exemption Chart
|State||2009 Exemption||2010 Exemption||2011 Exemption||2012 Exemption||2013 Exemption|
|Delaware||$3,500,000 effective 07/01/2009||$3,500,000||$5,000,000||$5,120,000||$5,250,000|
|District of Columbia||$1,000,000||$1,000,000||$1,000,000||$1,000,000||$1,000,000|
|*Hawaii||No state estate tax||$3,600,000 effective 05/01/2010||$3,600,000||$3,600,000 or $5,120,000||$5,250,000|
|Illinois||$2,000,000||No state estate tax||$2,000,000||$3,500,000||$4,000,000|
|Kansas||$1,000,000||No state estate tax||No state estate tax||No state estate tax||No state estate tax|
|North Carolina||$3,500,000||No state estate tax||$5,000,000||$5,120,000||No state estate tax|
|Ohio||$338,333||$338,333||$338,333||$338,333||No state estate tax|
|Oklahoma||$3,000,000||No state estate tax||No state estate tax||No state estate tax||No state estate tax|
While the trend these days is for people to live well into their 80s and 90s, I'm hearing more and more about the unexpected deaths of people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. During my 15 years of practice I've met with my fair share of young widows or widowers or the parents of a child who died unexpectedly, and in all cases but one there wasn't any estate planning done. And even in the one estate where the deceased husband did have a will, it had been written while he was still single and lived in New Jersey and it hadn't been updated after the birth of his child, his second marriage, or even after the couple moved to Florida. What a mess that was to deal with and I hate to say this, but in the big picture the young family probably would have been better off without any will at all instead of an extremely old and out of date will. I can't emphasize enough how important it is for everyone, young and old alike, to have an estate plan. But as my example of the young husband who failed to update his will after major changes in his life demonstrates, that's really not enough. You also need to make sure that all of the important documents that are included in your estate plan - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advance medical directives - are kept up to date and change as your family, finances, and the law change. This will require a yearly meeting with your estate planning attorney, but that's OK because you need to understand that estate planning is not a one shot deal but an ongoing process. And the time to start the process or continue the process is now.
In a 2004 survey conducted by Lawyers.com, the two most frequent reasons adult Americans cited for not having an estate plan were insufficient assets and not being old enough to need a plan. Sadly, those who hold these beliefs are greatly mistaken. With life's ups and downs comes the need for basic estate planning for both the young and old alike. Here are six estate planning tips for young singles and couples that can nonetheless be used by singles and couples of all ages.
1. Don't Rule Out a Prenuptial Agreement If you are young and do not think that you need a prenuptial agreement before getting married, think again. Many circumstances warrant at least considering a prenuptial agreement, including being involved in a family-owned business or owning your own business; having part of your paycheck stashed away in a 401(k) or other retirement plan; the possibility of inheriting assets from your family; owning a residence that will be used as the marital home; or marrying someone who has already accumulated a large amount of debt. A prenuptial agreement can protect what assets you currently have or significant assets that you expect to inherit, and can also protect you from your spouse-to-be's debts acquired before the marriage.
2. Make an Estate Plan for Medical Emergencies Twenty-six year old Terri Schiavo of Florida certainly did not anticipate slipping into a coma in 1990 and then having her husband and parents fight over her medical care and ultimate wishes for the next 15 years. Planning for medical emergencies is a must for everyone and should include the signing of two important legal documents called a Living Will and an Advance Medical Directive.
3. Make an Estate Plan for Financial Emergencies If you are out of the country on business and your spouse is at home trying to sell the house, or if you are in an accident and expected to fully recover but will be in the hospital for a while, then you will need a Durable Power of Attorney to allow your spouse or other person of your choice to manage your finances and sign legal documents on your behalf.
4. Make an Estate Plan for an Untimely Death Planning for an untimely death is important, particularly if you are in a committed relationship and/or have young children. If you fail to make an estate plan, then the state where you live at the time of your death will make one for you and in most situations the plan will not be what you would have wanted had you taken the time to make your own plan. Aside from this, assets titled in your individual name will need to be probated to transfer them into your beneficiaries' names after you die. Having at least a basic Last Will and Testament in place that puts someone in charge of settling your estate and names your preferred beneficiaries and a guardian for your minor children will give your loved ones peace of mind during a difficult time.
5. Make an Estate Plan for Your Minor Children Even if you do not think that you have enough money or property to need an estate plan, you will need to make a plan if you have minor children. If you do not, then control of the minor's inheritance will be taken over by a court-supervised guardian or conservator. Then, depending on the laws of the state where the minor lives, when the minor reaches the age of 18 or 21 all of the remaining guardianship funds will be turned over to the young adult, free and clear of any guidance or strings attached. Aside from this, if you and the other parent of your children both die while the children are still minors, then the children will become wards of the court until a judge can decide who the children should live with until they become adults.
6. Buy Term Life Insurance When you are young, term life insurance is really cheap and can offer your family financial security if you were to die prematurely. The insurance proceeds can be used for things such as paying off your outstanding medical and credit card bills; paying off your mortgage; replacing your lost income; paying for your children's care and education; and/or paying for a live in nanny, day care or after school care. Term life insurance is also easy to buy these days with services like Intelliquote, Quickquote and Reliaquote. Or, if you are offered term life insurance at work, buy it.
Everyone Needs an Estate Plan
Estate planning is not just for older or wealthy people. Younger people, especially those with minor children, need to have a will and estate plan in place in order to give instructions to their loved ones to follow in the event of a debilitating accident or untimely death. Celebrities like Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith (also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall), Princess Diana, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, and, most recently, Brittany Murphy, all died unexpectedly, and yet each and every one of them had a will and estate plan. It's just common sense.
Julie's Wills & Estate Planning Blog
I recently read a report that suggested that only about 20 percent of the population has a formal estate plan. After reviewing the points below, please take a minute to consider whether it's time for you to create or update your estate plan.
Here are five estate planning mistakes that people make that can be avoided.
1. Dying without a will or trust - If you die without a will or trust, the state in which you reside and the IRS will simply make one for you. Of course, they have no interest in avoiding or reducing estate taxes, minimizing estate administration costs or protecting your family and legacy. The distribution of your assets will just be turned over to the Probate Court. The probate process is needlessly time consuming, frustrating and expensive. It is also open to the public, meaning creditors, predators or anyone else will have complete access to all information about your estate. For the vast majority of people, the benefits far outweigh any initial costs.
2. Having an "I love you" will – An”I love you” will is one in which all the decedent's assets have been left to the spouse. On paper, it might seem to be a caring, thoughtful gesture, but the reality is quite different, because such a will simply passes the complex issues and problems associated with transferring and protecting wealth onto the spouse or other loved ones. It creates more problems than it solves, particularly for future generations.
3. Giving property outright to your children - Here is another solution that might sound good at first, but ignores several important realities. For instance, what if the child in question is too immature to handle the responsibility of a large sum of money on his or her own? What if the child suffers a severe financial setback that puts the inheritance at risk to creditors? What if the child marries a fortune-hunter, is addicted to drugs or alcohol, gets divorced or remarried? You may need to protect your children and heirs from their own poor decisions. These assets are also gifted assets which carry potentially large IRS penalties if not handled properly.
4. Owning property jointly - There are two types of joint ownership, Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) and Tenants in Common (TIC). Problems with JTWROS include postponement of probate only until last tenancy, the loss of the double step-up in tax basis creating more to pay in capital gains taxes, and outright distribution. With TIC, you also lose the double step-up in tax basis where it's available, and your property is subject to the estate plan of each tenant as well as probate for each tenant.
5. Not having a trust - A trust is the single most effective estate planning tool available. There are many different types of trusts. Among the better known and more commonly used are revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts and testamentary trusts. A Trust protects your privacy, and will help you leave what you want, to whom you want, in the way you want at the lowest possible cost overall. The additional advantage is that you avoid Probate altogether, which means that the settlement of the living trust will be done swiftly, without court or attorney's involvement, in contrast to having only an "I love you" Will.
Comprehensive Estate Planning Documents - Revocable Living Trusts - Will Package - Ancillary Documents
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Detailed and comprehensive, these documents have been developed through nearly 30 years of hands-on improvement by hundreds of attorneys throughout the US resulting in thousands of satisfied clients. They are drafted to ensure accuracy with current state and federal laws, and are updated as changes occur.
The Revocable Living Trust contains over 222 carefully worded provisions so that the trust can accommodate a client’s changing circumstances and to cover additional contingent situations without needing to be legally modified. The trust is also universal; that is applicable in all 50 states, for a client may eventually own property in or even move to another state.
Here is a list of what our package includes:
- 1 set of Ancillary Documents per person (DPOA for assets, DPOA for healthcare or Advanced Directive, Living Will, Nomination of Conservator, Appointment of Guardian, and Anatomical Gift)
- Abstract of Trust
- Trust Certification
- Pour-Over Will
- Assignment of Furnishings and Personal Effects
- 1 three-ring professional quality binder with tabs and inserts
- 1 set of quality documents with Plain English summaries
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We offer a wide variety of estate planning solutions and documents customized at your direction.
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Single A Trust
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A Q-TIP Trust (for married person)
Partner AA Trust
Partner AB Secure Trust (for Domestic Partners)
Vital Ancillary Documents
There are a number of other legal documents that are not legally required parts of the Living Trust but which should be included in or with the Trust to provide for future contingencies. Our ancillary documents offer you additional control over your person or assets. These documents are so vital; they are included, at no additional charge as part of your comprehensive document package.
Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care
Durable Power Of Attorney For Assets
Nomination Of Conservator/Guardian
Appointment Of Guardian
Advanced Planning Vehicles
Because many individuals have needs that go beyond basic estate planning, we offer numerous Advanced Estate Planning Solutions that can be incorporated into your overall estate plan. These documents should be considered as a supplement to your Living Trust to shelter your hard-earned estate from unnecessary estate taxes.
■Asset Management Trust (Spendthrift Trust)
■Beneficiary Trust (Dynasty)
■Catastrophic Illness Trust (Medicaid Planning Trust)
■Charitable Remainder Trust
■Family Catastrophic Illness Trust
■Insurance Preservation Trust- Spousal Support (ILIT)
■Insurance Preservation Trust (ILIT)
■IRA/Qualified Plan Trust
“A POORLY WRITTEN TRUST IS WORSE THAN NO TRUST AT ALL.” Henry Abts, III
A poorly drawn trust can become a restrictive nightmare for the surviving spouse or successor trustee and beneficiaries. As long as the clients are living, it does not matter what a Living Trust says, because it can always be revoked. However, upon the death of the client, these poorly written Trusts are going to end up in probate court, with petitions being presented to revise or clarify the Trust wording. (Even though the main advantage of a Living Trust is to avoid probate, a Trust falls under the legal jurisdiction of the probate code; any need for clarification of a Trust therefore must be handled in the probate courts.)
One size does not fit all – no two people or families are alike! Your family’s needs, dynamics, personalities, and values are unique. If you use a form kit, you are asking for problems. Even LegalZoom.com reveals that 80% of people who fill in blank forms to create legal documents do so incorrectly. Plus, if your Will or Living Trust is not executed properly, it becomes invalid. If you overlook the opportunity to write specific instructions about how you want to provide for your spouse and children, your family will receive whatever the “cookie cutter” document provides, and you may not know of other options. The only estate plan you rely on is the one that is custom prepared by a qualified estate planning professional attorney.
A well-written comprehensive trust document comes about only through extensive experience. The Estate Planning Source’s trust documents are the result of more than 28 years of working together with legal counsel to cover every imaginable contingency.