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Do we have to pay “death taxes” in California?

What are “Death Taxes”?

What most people in California mean by “death taxes” are the federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. These are taxes levied on the value of the estate. They are not on the income of either the estate or the decedent. Most estates will not be subjected to either one of these taxes under California probate rules. The State of California has no inheritance tax. There is a federal estate tax exemption for estates worth less than $3.5 million for deaths having occurred in 2009 or later.

It is important to note that the personal representative should not consider the probate value of the estate but the total gross value, including assets that avoid the probate process, such as property in joint tenancy, named-beneficiary property, pay-on-death assets, etc.

Call trust litigation and probate attorney Scott Grossman for a free discussion of your case, and order his free book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.

Estate Tax (noun):

The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death. It consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death. It is a tax levied on the net value of the estate of a deceased person. This occurs before distribution to the heirs.

Probate (noun):  

The process of proving in court that the will of a person who has died is valid. It involves proving before a competent judicial authority that a document offered for official recognition and registration as the last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine. Not all wills must go through this in California. See our infographic to help you determine if your loved one’s estate must go through probate.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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