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Understanding the value of an estate

Gross estate refers to the value of all the assets in an estate. It may include real property both in and outside the country, bank accounts, annuities, stocks and more. Even property that is not necessarily owned by the estate is included, such as property a person possesses a general power over, gifts and some life insurance proceeds. For a person in Georgia, if the total of all this is under the federal estate tax exemption, it is not necessary to pay estate taxes.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubled the estate tax exemption to more than $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples. This means that in most families, federal estate tax will not be a concern. The executor for the estate must file tax form 706 if the gross estate is higher than the federal exemption whether tax is due. Executors for estates of nonresidents and noncitizens may be required to file a tax form as well if the person had assets above a certain amount in the United States.

The deadline for paying taxes is nine months after a person's death. There is a six-month extension for filing available as well.

People who have questions around estate taxes and gifting may want to consult an attorney. This is a complex area, and with the recent changes under the TCJA, some people may want to make changes to their estate planning. Strategies that might have been appropriate under the previous estate tax exemption may no longer be the best way to structure the estate plan. An attorney may also be also be able to answer questions about how to maximize gifting while keeping taxes low. Executors who wonder whether they are responsible for filing a tax return for an estate can also contact an attorney for guidance.

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