Estate Taxes

Take a sip of water before this one folks, it’s gonna be a little dry.

At 35 to 40 percent the Federal Estate Tax is steep, but if you have under $5.45 million in your estate you have no need to worry. That number gets doubled for a couple to $10.9 million and the surviving spouse can claim whatever is left of the other’s estate tax exemption for up to 9 months after death. Also that percent is only charged on assets above the exemption threshold.

The state in which the deceased person lived can also impose estate or, for PA, inheritance tax. You catch that? It’s where the assets were held that matters. Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax is the obligation of any heirs and is paid by the heirs, not the estate before distribution.

The rates are as follows:

Spouse: None

Direct Descendent: 4.5%

Sibling: 12%

Anyone Else: 15%

One thing we focus on a lot is having beneficiaries on your accounts. This allows the accounts to pass directly named beneficiaries and avoid probate. What this does not do is exempt them from being used to calculate the overall value of the estate. So though they may never see probate, you technically still have to pay inheritance tax on them unless they’re going to a spouse or charity.

And check out this sneaker of a rule: If you own a bank account jointly with a person in PA and they die, you have to pay inheritance tax on half of the account.

So there you have the basics and we hope nobody runs into this any time soon.

All the best,

Wesley R. Nicholson, Mike Allen and Aaron Everdyke

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