The federal estate tax carries a 40% maximum rate, and the exclusion amount is $5.25 million in 2013. What this means in simple English is that only $5.25 million worth of assets can be passed on to your heirs before the estate tax is imposed. Married couples, with proper planning, can preserve the exclusion amount for both spouses for a combined exclusion of $10.5 million.
We also have an unlimited marital deduction that allows you to leave any amount to your spouse free of the estate tax, even if it exceeds the exclusion amount. That is, as long as you and your spouse are both United States citizens.
It is not entirely uncommon, however, for Americans to marry people who are citizens of other countries. At any given time we have a lot of military personnel stationed overseas, and sometimes they marry people that they meet in other countries.
Many civilians work abroad as well, and there are international dating sites that some people find to be appealing. And of course world travelers sometimes fall in love along the way.
Whatever path you may have taken to an international marriage you must concern yourself with the estate tax because the marital deduction is not extended to an American who is married to a non-citizen.
A partial solution could be the creation of a qualified domestic trust. With these trusts the beneficiary, your surviving spouse, can receive distributions from the trust for their needs according to an ascertainable standard established by the IRS.
What remains in the trust at the spouse's death would be subject to the estate tax. However, applying other strategies, it could be possible to avoid the estate tax, altogether.
To learn more about these trusts and other tax efficiency tools contact our firm to set up a free consultation.