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Estate Taxes

Learn what you need to know about Estate and Inheritance Taxes in PA. Estate taxes may be one of the most complicated issues that arise when you lose a loved one. Laws related to estate tax can change from year to year. Below is an overview addressing some of the most common issues.

Estate TaxesFederal Estate Taxes: In this year, 2009, there is an exemption of up to $3,500,000 on estates. This means that if an estate is worth less than $3,500,000, no estate taxes will be due. But, if an estate is worth more than that, it will be taxed at 45 percent on any money over the exemption.  Here are some examples.

  • Assume your estate is worth two million dollars. Your family will not have to pay any federal estate taxes on that money, but, may have to pay an inheritance tax to the state government.
  • If you have an estate worth four million dollars, your family will have to pay federal estate tax of 45% on $500,000 only, which is the amount of value this estate has over the $3,500,000 exemption. However, the estate may still be subject to state inheritance taxes.

State Inheritance Taxes.  It’s important to know the difference between an estate tax and an inheritance tax.

  • Estate taxes are paid out of your assets when you die, and are based upon the total amount of your estate.
  • State inheritance taxes are paid by the people who inherit money or other assets from your estate when you die.
  • estate inheritance taxes can vary in rate depending on who receives the money.
    • For example, if you leave $40,000 to one of your friends, in some states they will be taxed 15% on the inheritance, but this tax may be only 1% if the money is left to one of your children.

State inheritance rates vary from state to state, and not all states have an inheritance tax. Some of the states that do impose an inheritance tax are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Dakota, Tennessee, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut, just to name a few.

What You Can Do to Minimize Federal Estate Taxes

The most important thing you can do is assemble a team of professionals to assist you in developing an estate plan that can help minimize estate taxes for you and your family. This team should at the very least include a qualified estate planning attorney, Certified Public Accountant, and a financial advisor.

If you lost your loved one due to the negligence of another person, your personal injury attorney should assist you in coordinating your estate planning team to all be in the same place so everyone is on the same page.

There are many estate planning and financial tools available to minimize estate taxes, but not all of them are going to be right for you.

You should also arrange to meet with your estate planning team if your life situation changes in the form of a marriage, remarriage, death, divorce, separation, or job change.  Even if you feel you don’t have any major life changes for a particular year, it’s still a good idea to get your team together to review any changes or modifications that may have to be made due to changing estate tax laws or other factors.


In 2010 estate taxes are scheduled to go away altogether and then return to 2001 levels in 2011 and beyond. Once these changes take place, it could have serious ramifications for your estate plan. That’s why it’s important to have your team assembled and ready to help you and your family adapt your plan to fit your individual needs.

For nearly 25 years, Jon Ostroff has been representing the estates of over 100 children and adults who have died across Pennsylvania as a result of someone else’s negligence. Jon will spend the time and money it takes to figure out what happened to your loved one. If unable to recover money for your loved one’s estate, Jon will pay these costs.

Jon Ostroff’s ability to find the evidence that wins cases has earned him his distinguished reputation across Pennsylvania as a wrongful death attorney.

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