Unified Credit

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

The amount of assets you can bequeath without incurring an estate tax was referred to as the "unified credit" under prior tax laws. It is now referred to as the "applicable exclusion amount" (see separate definition). The amount had been $600,000, was raised over several years and in 2007 is $2 million. It is scheduled to increase further in future years but the various proposals in Congress may change this. You should exercise caution in light of this uncertainty and the fact that many states have lower levels of assets you can transfer without tax. A common planning technique to protect this tax benefit is called a "by pass" trust.

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