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What makes up my taxable estate?

Your gross estate for federal estate tax purposes includes:

  • All property that you own at death (e.g., real estate, investments, business interests, personal property, mortgages held by you)
  • Property you have given away while retaining a lifetime interest in the income from the property, the use and enjoyment of the property, or the right to determine who ultimately receives the property
  • Gifts that don't take effect until you die
  • Property that you own jointly with another person except to the extent the other party contributed to the purchase price of the property
  • Property over which you possess a general power to appoint the property to yourself or others
  • Life insurance policies owned by you or in which you retained the right to change the beneficiary, cancel the policy, or make policy loans
  • Your one-half interest in community property
  • Annuities, pensions, and profit-sharing plans

From your total gross estate, your estate may take deductions for funeral expenses, administration expenses (e.g., executor's fees, court costs, attorney's fees, appraiser's fees), certain debts and income taxes, state death taxes paid, and property left to your U.S. citizen spouse or to qualified charities.

The net amount may be subject to estate taxes, if estate taxes are imposed in the year in which you die. However, the amount of taxes payable on your taxable estate may be reduced by the applicable exclusion amount (formerly known as the unified credit), and a credit for foreign death taxes.