The death of a spouse can be a devastating emotional experience for a person. In this often very challenging time, the last thing a person may want to think about is taxes. However, one tax-related thing it can be important for a person to check fairly promptly after a spouse’s death, particularly if their spouse had a large estate, is whether their spouse did any estate tax planning.
Here in Massachusetts, there is an estate tax that some estates may be required to pay. Also, there is a federal estate tax that can apply to some estates. For both state and federal estate taxes, there is a value threshold set for determining whether or not an estate will be subject to the tax (the specific amount of this threshold is different for the state estate tax and the federal estate tax).
There are certain planning tactics that can be used to try to minimize an estate's exposure to estate taxes. Use of these tactics is referred to as estate tax planning. Well-done estate tax planning can sometimes be the difference between an estate having a large estate tax liability or it having low or no estate tax liability.
Now, if a married person dies without doing any estate tax planning and their estate is large enough that it could trigger an estate tax liability, their spouse is not necessarily without options; the surviving spouse may have some estate tax planning actions they can take. However, these actions often have some fairly narrow time limits regarding when they can be taken. Thus, prompt action can be important in these sorts of situations.
Our law firm provides a variety of different estate tax planning services. Among the things we can do is advise individuals who have lost a spouse and are concerned about potential estate tax liability regarding their spouse's estate as to what options they have.