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Effective January 1, 2014, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption was increased to $5.34 million dollars. What this change means is that an individual can now give up to $5.34 million during their lifetime, or pass away with an estate valued up to $5.34 million dollars, without paying any Federal gift or estate tax.

“If my grandfather left me some money in his will, do I have to pay taxes on it?” No, but …

A recent update in The National Law Review, titled “Trusts and Estates Law Update – January 2014,” considered this common question.

If the estate is greater than $5.34 million under current law at your uncle’s passing, then the estate will be required to pay estate taxes. In addition, some states themselves impose an independent state estate tax. Caution: If your uncle made gifts exceeding the annual gift exclusion (i.e., $14,000 for 2014) in any given year to a beneficiary, then the amount in excess reduces the $5.34 million that can be left estate tax free at death.

Accordingly, for 2014, an individual can receive a lifetime exemption of $5.34 million. That means that you can receive up to that amount from your uncle’s estates without his estate owing any tax. If during your lifetime you are fortunate enough to receive more than $5.34 million from your uncle, then the estate would be required to pay taxes on anything above that threshold.

Spoiler alert: This area of law can get complicated.

Reference: The National Law Review, February 11, 2014: “Trusts and Estates Law Update – January 2014

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.