Don’t lose the value of your partner’s estate tax exemption by failing to file an estate tax return! Recently, the IRS issued new guidance on this important estate tax issue for married couples regarding the portability of individual estate tax exemption between spouses. Each individual is allowed to exempt a certain amount of asset value from estate taxation at death, currently $5.12 million. Portability is a new concept, introduced in 2012, to make it easier for a surviving spouse to utilize both their own exemption and that of their deceased spouse. Like most IRS regulations, however, there are important dance steps to follow in order to achieve the desired result. An estate tax return must be filed soon after the first spouse’s death, usually within nine months. If you miss this filing, you likely will lose the value of the first spouse’s exemption. This means the surviving spouse could only shelter about $5 million of estate assets from taxation, instead of the approximate $10 million value of the couple’s combined exemptions. You can read more about portability and the various estate tax consequences in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Avoiding Estate-Tax Traps.” Even if your estate assets are far below the exemption amount, preserving both spouses’ estate tax exemptions is an important aspect of one’s comprehensive estate plan. Remember, we never know what twists and turns our lives may take, and a small estate today could grow through any number of possible circumstances over time.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (August 7, 2012) “Avoiding Estate-Tax Traps”