Most people who are concerned about the payment of estate taxes concentrate their thoughts on the federal estate tax. Recently with the federal estate tax exemption having been increased to $5.34 million per person and the possibility for married persons of “porting” the unused portion of the exemption of the first spouse to die, that they no longer need be concerned as their estate or combined estates are considerably less than the available federal estate tax exemption. However, persons who are domiciled in Illinois must also consider that the Illinois estate tax exemption is only $4 million and is not portable. Therefore, whether you are a married or an unmarried person, in Illinois there is a differential between the state estate tax and the federal estate tax which will, in most cases, result in the assessment of an Illinois estate tax at a 16% tax rate.
Therefore, when planning one’s estate, one should consider the possibility of such a tax being assessed and plan accordingly. For married persons this may involve the choice of a marital deduction formula which limits the “tax sheltered” gift to $4 million and assigning the balance of the estate to the surviving spouse.
With respect to unmarried persons, if one is motivated by an avoidance of estate tax, then lifetime gifts might be appropriate.
In any event, one should see an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss these issues.