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Does My Florida Probate Estate Need to Worry About Estate Taxes?


The topic of Estate Taxes, aka “death taxes” can come into our lives in a couple of different ways. Often the first time clients give any real thought to this tax is when they are in the midst of creating a long-term plan for their estate. Often, an estate executor finds themselves faced with questions surrounding the tax while in the midst of bringing an estate of a loved one through the probate process. Whether you are contemplating how estate taxes may affect your own estate, or you are seeking answers on how it may impact the estate in the midst of probate – our team is here to provide some basic information on the estate tax to get you started. For questions specific to your own circumstances, do not hesitate to reach out to our team and speak with an experienced wills and probate professional.

What is an Estate Tax?

An estate tax is a tax on a person’s property – the total value of the transfer of their properties/assets – when the property is transferred upon the owner’s death. The amount of tax that will be owed is not necessarily based on the rarity or value of specific items in terms of sentimentality – the tax will be based upon the cumulative property’s “fair market value” at the time of transfer. While what is considered to be a “fair market value” may vary somewhat, generally speaking it is the amount that a regular person, with no sentimentality to the object, would deem fair as a purchase price.

Calculating the Estate Tax

As briefly mentioned above, this means that the estate tax assessed would not be based on the value that the beneficiaries place on the property as a whole, or upon individual items within the estate. For example, it is not uncommon for heirs or beneficiaries of an estate to highly value an item or a property based on significance it holds to them personally. Heirs of an estate valued at $10 million may personally value one asset under the estate – say, a one acre property owned by their grandmother – as being as valuable as 50% of the rest of the estate combined. Depending on the circumstances of the will and estate plan, the heirs may even decide to divide their interests in the estate according to sentimental values that they themselves place on various assets in the estate.

While the above is true – and each situation is different – generally speaking the estate tax owed on an estate will be dependent on the fair market value at the time the property passes – not the sentimental value placed upon that asset.

Federal Estate Tax

Florida did away with its state-level estate tax twenty years ago. While some other states still require an estate tax, it is not a Florida tax that you need to be wary of. This does mean that individuals who own property in some of these other states will need to anticipate the need to pay those state’s estate taxes.

The federal government, however, does levy an estate tax when an estate’s gross value exceeds a certain threshold. This area of the law is subject to frequent change, so it is best to engage with a knowledgeable attorney so you can ensure you have the most current information. As of the date this article is written in 2024, the estate threshold for those individuals who pass away in 2024 is $13,610,000. This means that if your gross estate is valued at less than whatever the federal threshold is at the time, your estate will not be subjected to that tax.

Some Exemptions

For those whose estates do exceed the federal limit, some exceptions may apply. For instance, a married individual can leave the entirety of their estate to their spouse, which would be exempt from estate tax under a recognized “marital deduction.”

Determining whether key exceptions might apply in your own case can be pivotal to your probate case moving forward. Contact a probate and wills attorney to ensure you have all the information you need.

Contact Suncoast Civil Law

The Sarasota wills and probate lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law are standing by to discuss any wills or probate matters you are facing. Contact our office today to see how our team can help.