Federal Estate Tax (Death Tax) PlanningFederal Estate Tax (Death Tax) Planning


Historically speaking, the federal estate tax is an excise tax levied on the transfer of a person's assets after death. In actuality, it is neither a death tax nor an inheritance tax, but more accurately a transfer tax. There are three distinct aspects to federal estate taxes that comprise what is called the Unified Transfer Tax: Estate Taxes, Gift Taxes, and Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes. Legal planning to avoid or minimize federal estate taxes is both a prudent and an important aspect of comprehensive estate planning.

If you are concerned about how your current estate and gift planning may function in light of ATRA 2012, and thereafter, then we encourage you to schedule a consultation.

California Estate Taxes

California's estate tax system is commonly referred to as a "pick up" tax. This is because California picks up all or a portion of the credit for state death taxes allowed on the federal estate tax return (federal form 706 or 706NA). Since there is no longer a federal credit for state estate taxes on the federal estate tax return, there is no longer basis for the California estate tax. California has neither an estate tax – a tax paid by the estate, nor an inheritance tax – a tax paid by a recipient of a gift from an estate.

Note: Nothing in this publication is intended or written to be used, and cannot be used by any person for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties regarding any transactions or matters addressed herein. You should always seek advice from independent tax advisors regarding the same. [See IRS Circular 230.]

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Tierney, Watson & Healy provides California probate administration, probate litigation, elder law and estate planning to clients throughout California and nationwide. Our California practice includes the entire San Francisco Bay Area, the cities of San Francisco, Alameda, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Berkeley. With offices in San Francisco and Sonoma counties, we regularly represent and visit clients in San Francisco County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, San Mateo County, Marin County and Sonoma County.

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