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2019 Federal & State Estate Tax Exemption Update

As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), the federal unified estate and gift tax basic exclusion amount increased from $5.49 million in 2017 to $11.18 million in 2018. The basic exclusion amount is indexed for inflation and thus increased to $11.4 million for 2019. However, the higher exclusion is scheduled to sunset back to $5 million after December 31, 2025, absent future legislation.

The TCJA also preserved the portability of deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) election for estates of decedents dying after December 31, 2010. The portability election allows the surviving spouse to use any unused estate tax exclusion from their deceased spouse, instead of losing the benefit altogether. For example, by making the portability election using the higher federal exclusion amount, the surviving spouse could potentially protect up to $22.8 million in assets from the federal estate tax in 2019.

The combination of the increased federal basic exclusion amount and a potential sunset date has prompted many taxpayers to either begin or reconsider their current estate planning. Despite these sweeping changes to the federal law, taxpayers must continue to contend with significantly lower state estate tax exclusions.

Here is a list of the 2019 estate tax exclusions for each state that imposes an estate tax:

Connecticut $3,600,000
District of Columbia $5,600,000
Hawaii $5,490,000
Illinois $4,000,000
Maine $5,600,000
Maryland $5,000,000
Massachusetts $1,000,000
Minnesota $2,700,000
New York $5,740,000
Oregon $1,000,000
Rhode Island $1,561,719
Vermont $2,750,000
Washington $2,193,000

The significant gap between the federal and state estate tax exclusions should be addressed in any comprehensive planning, including estate planning, gift planning, retirement planning and future changes in domicile. If you have questions regarding your current estate plans, please contact your Citrin Cooperman advisor or a member of our Trust & Estate Practice.

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