Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Estate Tax


The Estate Tax, also known as an inheritance tax, is a levy paid on an individual’s property and cash holdings after their death. It applies to the transfer of property including cash, real estate, stocks, or other assets. The rate of taxation varies depending on the value of the estate and laws within a particular jurisdiction.


The phonetics of the keyword “Estate Tax” is /ɪˈsteɪt tæks/.

Key Takeaways

Sure, here you go:“`

  1. Estate Tax Liability: Estate tax is a tax on the transfer of the estate of a deceased person. The tax is levied on the entire estate before the assets are distributed to the heirs according to the deceased person’s will or state laws if there is no will present.
  2. Exemption Limits: There are exemption limits for estate tax. As of 2021, estates valued at more than $11.7 million per individual or $23.4 million per couple are subject to federal estate tax. The exempt amount is indexed for inflation and may increase periodically.
  3. Paying the Estate Tax: The executor of the estate typically shoulders the responsibility of paying the estate tax. They use funds from the estate to cover the tax before distributing the remainder to the heirs. If the estate lacks sufficient funds, the heirs may have to contribute to the payment.

“`This HTML numbered list provides a brief explanation of estate tax liability, exemption limits for estate tax, and who is responsible for paying the estate tax.


The Estate Tax, often referred to as the “death tax” , is significant because it’s a federal tax on the transfer of the estate of a deceased person. This tax directly implicates wealth management, estate planning and business succession strategies, as it will affect how much wealth gets passed onto heirs. The understanding and mitigation of the estate tax are important to preserve an estate’s value, especially for high-net-worth individuals. The existence of this tax prompts individuals and families to engage in various tax planning techniques to reduce the amount of estate tax that might be payable upon an individual’s death, protecting their assets and optimizing the wealth passed onto the next generation. It also has a broader social and economic influence, playing a role in wealth distribution and inequality in society.


The primary purpose of the estate tax, also referred to as the “death tax” , is to tax the transfer of wealth at death, reducing the accumulation of large amounts of wealth in a small number of hands, thereby fostering social equity. Essentially when a person dies, the federal government can impose a tax on the deceased person’s property and assets, this tax is the estate tax. Governments also utilize estate taxes as a source of revenue to fund various public sector projects and operations.Estate tax is levied on the overall value of a decedent’s estate before it is distributed to the heirs, and can be employed as a means to mitigate the concentration of wealth and the potential socioeconomic disparities arising from it. That being said, only estates exceeding a certain value are typically subject to the tax, protecting smaller estates and their beneficiaries from the tax burden. The rates at which estate tax is levied can vary greatly, depending on the jurisdiction and the specific details of the estate. Through preventing the excessive accumulation of wealth by a limited number of individuals or families, the estate tax helps drive economic balance and growth, while contributing more broadly to societal balance and stability.


1. Example 1 – Mr. Jones: Mr. Jones, a successful business owner, passes away leaving an estate valued at $20 million to his two children. In the United States, for 2022, the federal estate tax exemption is $11.7 million per individual. Therefore, any estate amount above this threshold would be liable for the estate tax. In Mr. Jones case, $8.3 million would be the taxable estate. Depending on state laws, there may be additional taxes due as well.2. Example 2 – Mrs. Smith: Mrs. Smith, an heiress, inherits a $30 million estate from her parents, but she does not plan to use all of it in her lifetime and wishes to pass it on to her children. To avoid excessive estate tax on surplus wealth upon her death, she may have to undertake thorough estate planning – which may involve gifting a portion her estate to her children during her lifetime, setting up trusts, or investing in life insurance to cover potential estate tax liabilities in future.3. Example 3 – Mr. Brown: Mr. Brown, a tax resident in the UK, dies leaving a home worth $1 million, and other wealth and assets totaling another $1 million. In the UK, as of 2022, the inheritance tax (similar to the estate tax in the US) threshold is £325,000 (approx $437,000). Any amount above this is taxed at 40%. Therefore, Mr. Brown’s children would have to pay inheritance tax on the amount above the stated threshold.In each of these cases, the specifics of the estate tax laws in their respective jurisdictions would determine its extent and impact. Estate tax can be complex and is usually navigated with the help of an estate planner or lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Estate Tax?

The estate tax is a federal tax imposed on the transfer of a person’s estate upon their death. It is typically calculated based on the net value of the property, assets, and financial holdings left by the deceased.

Who is responsible for paying the Estate Tax?

Generally, the estate tax is paid by the estate itself before assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. However, beneficiaries may be responsible if the estate does not have sufficient assets to cover the tax.

When is the Estate Tax due?

Estate taxes generally need to be paid within nine months from the date of death. An extension may be possible, but interest accrues in the meantime.

How is Estate Tax calculated?

The estate tax is typically calculated as a percentage of the net value of the estate, after any exclusions or deductions. This includes real estate, businesses, cash, securities, insurance, trusts, annuities, and other assets.

What is the Estate Tax threshold?

As of 2021, the estate tax exemption threshold is $11.7 million per individual. This means an estate’s value must exceed $11.7 million before the federal government imposes its estate tax.

Are there any deductions allowed against Estate Tax?

Yes, deductions can be made for charitable gifts left by the deceased, funeral expenses, outstanding debts, and transfers to a surviving spouse, which can significantly reduce the taxable estate.

Can Estate Tax be avoided or reduced?

Yes, there are several strategies to potentially avoid or reduce the estate tax, including gifting assets before death, setting up trusts, donating to charity, or using life insurance policies. It’s essential to plan with a tax advisor or attorney to ensure compliance with tax laws.

Does every state in the U.S. impose an Estate Tax?

No, not every state imposes an estate tax. As of 2021, only twelve states and the District of Columbia impose an estate tax.

What happens if Estate Taxes are not paid?

If estate taxes aren’t paid when due, the IRS can place a lien on the estate’s assets. This can delay the distribution of assets to the heirs, and the estate may also be charged penalties and interest.

How are international properties or assets treated for Estate Tax?

The U.S. federal estate tax applies to worldwide property for U.S. citizens and residents, including property located outside the U.S. There are specific rules for nonresidents, so it’s recommended to consult with a tax advisor or attorney.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More