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Spouses face several options in estate planning

Attorney Stacey D. Spivey of Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City discusses recent changes to estate law.
by Paula Burkes Modified: October 11, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: October 10, 2013

Q&A with Stacey D. Spivey

When estate planning, spouses face a variety of options

Q: Under current federal law, what amount of money can pass free of federal estate or gift taxes?

A: As a result of fairly recent federal law changes, the combined estate and gift tax exemption is $5 million per person with indexing for inflation on an annual basis. This results in a federal exemption of $5.25 million in 2013 for lifetime transfers by gifts or transfers at death. This means a married couple may shelter $10.5 million from gift tax or estate tax this year with proper planning. The federal estate and gift tax rate is now 40 percent of the excess over the federal estate and gift tax exemption amount. Transfers from one spouse to the other spouse and transfers to qualified charities are generally free from federal estate or gift tax. For deaths in 2010 and thereafter, there is no separate Oklahoma estate tax. Also, there is no separate Oklahoma gift tax.

Q: What is portability and how is a portability election made?

A: Portability allows a married couple to share their federal estate tax exemption amounts so the surviving spouse can elect to claim and use any estate tax exemption remaining at the death of the first spouse. Portability is not automatically available. Instead, the portability election must be made on a timely filed federal estate tax return, which will be due nine months after a decedent's death. So even if an estate is under $5 million and there is no requirement for filing a federal estate tax return, it still may be in the best interest of the surviving spouse to file a federal return and make the portability election.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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