Most Americans don’t have to worry about federal estate and gift taxes. However, if you’re even moderately wealthy and want to transfer wealth to your children and grandchildren, you’ll want to know how to protect your ability to pass wealth to the next generation. A recent article from Woman’s World, “If You’re Rich, Read This—Your Estate Taxes Could Be at Stake (And Your Kids at Risk of Losing Their Inheritance” provides a good overview of estate taxes. If any of these issues are relevant to you, meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn how your state’s tax laws may impact your children’s inheritance.
A well-created estate plan can help you achieve your goals and minimize tax liability. There are three types of taxes the IRS levies on gifts and inheritances.
Few families worry about federal estate taxes for now. However, this will change in the future, and planning is always wiser. In 2023, the federal estate tax exemption is $12.92 million. Estates valued above this level have a tax rate of 40% on assets. People at this asset level usually have complex estate plans designed to minimize or completely avoid paying these taxes.
An estate not big enough to trigger federal estate taxes may still owe state estate taxes. Twelve states and the District of Columbia impose their own state taxes on residents’ estates, ranging from 0.8 percent to 20 percent, and some have a far lower exemption level than the federal estate tax. Some begin as low as $one million.
Six states impose an inheritance tax ranging between 10 percent and 18 percent. The beneficiary pays the tax, even if you live out of state. Spouses are typically exempt from inheritance taxes, which are often determined by kinship—sons and daughters pay one amount, while grandchildren pay another.
Note: California, where our law firm is located, imposes neither an estate nor an inheritance tax.
Taxpayers concerned about having estates big enough to trigger estate or inheritance taxes can make gifts during their lifetime to reduce the estate’s tax exposure. In 2023, the federal government allows individuals to make tax-free gifts of up to $17,000 in cash or assets to as many people as they want every year.
A couple with three children could give $17,000 to each of their children, creating a tax-free transfer of $102,000 to the next generation ($17,000 x 3 children x 2 individuals). The couple could repeat these gifts yearly for as long as they wished. Over time, these gifts could substantially reduce the size of their estate before it would be subject to an estate tax. It also gives their heirs a chance to enjoy their inheritance while their parents are living.
It should be noted that gifts over $17,000 in 2023 count against the individual estate tax limit. Therefore, your federal estate tax exemption will decline if you give more than the limit. This is why it’s essential to work with an estate planning attorney who can help you structure these gifts and discuss other estate tax and asset protection strategies.
Reference: Woman’s World (April 5, 2023) “If You’re Rich, Read This—Your Estate Taxes Could Be at Stake (And Your Kids at Risk of Losing Their Inheritance”