What is the Difference Between an Inheritance Tax and an Estate Tax?

To many people, estate taxes and inheritance taxes have something to do with someone passing away, but beyond that, the terms seem to be used interchangeably. There is, however, a difference between these two terms, that can be an important part of your estate planning strategies.

What is an Estate Tax?

An estate tax, as the name implies, is paid out of the proceeds of the estate itself. The value of property in the estate is subtracted by the number of liabilities, for the net amount that can be taxed. Because the tax is paid by the estate, it is reduced from the value of the estate, before any individual beneficiary gets his or her allocation (inheritance) from the estate.

Inheritance Taxes

An inheritance tax is a tax imposed on the individuals who actually inherit property. The individual is taxed on the value of the property he or she inherits, just as someone would pay a tax anytime income or profit were realized for any other reason. However, in some cases, a will or an estate will provide extra money for beneficiaries, to help them pay those taxes.

How Much are the Taxes?

Estate taxes vary from state to state, and there is a federal estate tax as well. Luckily, when it comes to federal estate taxes, only estates that are valued at over $11.7 million owe the tax, although that number does change, sometimes very frequently, so check with your estate attorney about whether your estate will have to pay the tax. Additionally, states can impose their own estate taxes, which may be less than the federal threshold.

Additionally, in some cases, certain property in the estate can be exempted, which lowers the value of the estate. This means that you can often lower the value of your estate, to a level that may be below what the federal or state estate taxes may be.

Not Everybody Pays Inheritance Taxes

Illinois does not have an individual inheritance tax, thankfully. There is no federal inheritance tax. In many states with the tax, surviving spouses are exempt, and many will also exempt surviving children from paying the tax. Usually, the more distant the relative who inherits property, the higher the tax can be. Thankfully, many states that impose an inheritance tax, also allow for exemptions, lowering the value of what is inherited.

The states with an inheritance tax currently include Maryland, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Why should you care, if you don’t live in those states? Because if your beneficiaries do, they may be liable for the inheritance tax, even though you lived in, and passed away in, Illinois. That means that out-of-state beneficiaries should have a plan to deal with inheritance taxes if they live in one of those states.

Contact your Illinois estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd at (847) 325-5559. The Lincolnshire contested estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd can help you craft an estate plan that can try to minimize your tax burden.

Updated as of July 2019
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