If you are responsible for overseeing the probate of an estate, chances are good that you are doing so while also grieving the loss of a loved one. It can be emotionally and practically challenging to try and fulfill your duties as Executor under those conditions. An Executor has numerous important responsibilities, including making sure federal gift and estate taxes are calculated correctly and paid on time. To help you fulfill your duties as Executor, the Los Angeles probate attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC offers some practical guidance on how to pay federal gift and estate taxes.
Probate is the name given to the legal process involved in administrating the estate of a decedent. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament, the person named as the Executor in that Will is responsible for administering the estate. The Executor has a wide variety of duties and responsibilities during probate. Among those responsibilities is calculating and paying any federal gift and estate taxes owed by the estate.
Federal Gift and Estate Taxes
The federal gift and estate tax is a federal tax on the transfer of wealth paid at the time of the death of a taxpayer. The tax applies to the value of the estate at the time of death plus the value of all qualifying lifetime gifts. While there are some exclusions, most gifts are subject to the federal gift tax. The rate of the federal gift and estate tax is 40 percent; however, a taxpayer is entitled to take advantage of the lifetime exemption to reduce the amount of taxes owed. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) set the lifetime exemption amount at $5 million, to be adjusted annually for inflation. In 2018, however, tax legislation was signed into law that changed the lifetime exemption amount for 2018 and for several years thereafter. Those exemption amounts are scheduled to increase with inflation each year until 2025. On January 1, 2026, the exemption amounts are scheduled to revert to the 2017 levels, adjusted for inflation. As of 2022, the individual lifetime exemption amount is $12.06 million.
Federal Gift and Estate Tax Forms
If you are the Executor of an estate, you will use IRS Form 706 or 706-GS(D) to calculate estate tax owed, according to Chapter 11 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and to calculate the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax imposed by Chapter 13 of the IRC. A Form 706 must be filed on behalf of a deceased U.S. citizen or resident whose gross estate, adjusted taxable gifts, and specific exemptions exceed the applicable lifetime exemption. A Form 706 is also required if the Executor elects to transfer the “deceased spousal unused exclusion” (DSUE) amount (commonly known as electing “portability”) to the surviving spouse, regardless of the size of the decedent’s gross estate. Form 706-NA is used to calculate estate and GST tax liability for decedents who were classified as “non-resident aliens.” Form 706-GS(D) is used to calculate taxes due on trust distributions subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax.
How Do I Determine If Federal Gift and Estate Taxes Are Owed?
Determining what assets are included when calculating a decedent’s estate value can be tricky if the decedent left behind a high value and/or complex estate. You start with valuing the decedent’s “gross estate” and then subtracting any credits, exemptions, or deductions. Generally, the decedent’s “gross estate” includes all the following:
- All property in which the decedent had an interest (including real property outside the U.S.)
- Certain transfers made during the decedent’s life without adequate consideration
- The includable part of joint estates with rights of survivorship
- The includable part of tenancies by the entirety
- Certain life insurance proceeds
- Property over which the decedent had a general power of appointment
- Dower or curtesy (or statutory estate) of the surviving spouse
- Community property in which the decedent had an interest
Contact Los Angeles Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about paying federal gift and estate taxes, or about probating an estate, contact the experienced Los Angeles probate attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.