What is an estate tax?

An estate tax is “a tax on the right to transfer property at the time of death.” An estate tax does not apply to everyone’s estate; whether it applies to you depends on the total value of your estate.

How rich do I have to be for the estate tax to apply to me?

In Washington, if the total gross estate (the value of all property owned by the deceased person or which the deceased person had an interest in at the time of his death) of a deceased person who owned property in the state is worth $2 million or more, the executor of the estate (the person or institution appointed to carry out the terms of the will) must file an estate tax return.  

What does an estate tax return include?

An estate tax return reports all assets, located in Washington state, owned by the deceased person on the date of his death. If the deceased person was married, the community property owned by the couple together will also have to be included in the return. The deceased person’s property is valued at its actual value or its fair market value. This value is usually calculated for the date of the death of the deceased person. The value of the property can be proved for the estate tax return with supporting documents, such as real estate appraisals or business appraisals.

How is the tax calculated?

To calculate the tax on the entire estate, it’s initially calculated as if all the deceased person’s property was in the state of Washington. Then, the tax is apportioned between the property within the state and outside of the state.

The estate may be taxed between 10% — 19%, depending on the value of the taxable estate residing within Washington. The taxable estate is determined by taking any allowable expenses and deductions (such as the costs of a funeral, paying off debts, gifts to charity, or of estate administration) from the gross estate total.

Please note that the Federal Estate Tax applies only if the gross taxable estate exceeds the value of the personal exemption of $5.43 million.

We are here to help

To protect your estate from taxes or get more of your questions answered, talk to an experienced Washington wills and trusts attorney. Contact or call (425) 227-8700 to reach attorney Dan Kellogg.