Many unsuspecting middle class households may be subject to estate tax even though they wouldn’t classify themselves as “rich”, according to a recent MarketWatch study. The current federal estate tax exemption is a generous $5.43 million for estates of individuals who die in 2015, but that can be easily exceeded by individuals with significant life insurance proceeds, a nice home and healthy retirement accounts.
The estate value for federal tax purposes includes a number of things, such as proceeds from any life insurance policies, any residences (primary/vacation/etc), retirement accounts, investment accounts, closely held business ownership interests, cars, boats, furniture and more.
To avoid estate tax where life insurance coverage puts you over the limit, you can have an experienced North Carolina estate tax attorney put together an irrevocable life insurance trust to own any policies that you may have, as well as help you determine the best option to proceed with the rest of your estate planning. There are downsides to an irrevocable life insurance trust, though, such as not being able to make changes to the policies after ownership is transferred to the trust.
Even if you don’t have exposure to the federal estate tax due to the generous exemption, you may be subject to state taxes. In North Carolina the legislature repealed the estate tax in July 2013. Florida also has no state estate tax, and has also done away with any inheritance tax.