Three words. It all depends.
As ridiculous as it sounds, it all depends on what year you die. For example, if you died this year or next, you would have a $5,000,000 estate tax exemption under current law. Beyond that, no one knows what the estate tax free amount will be. The law on the books now gives your estate only a $1,000,000 estate tax exemption if you die after 2011. President Obama’s administration indicated that it may favor a $3,500,000 estate tax exemption after 2010. Only time will tell. (See the post below from March 18, 2011.)
The answer to this question also depends on what assets are included in your estate, the value of your estate, the expenses and debts on your death, and whether you made gifts in excess of your annual gift tax exemption.
And it depends on to whom you leave your estate in that there is an unlimited estate tax deduction for wealth left outright to charity and an unlimited marital deduction for wealth left outright to a surviving spouse who is a citizen of the United States.
copyright James J. Phillips 2011