What is an Estate Tax Attorney?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2019
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An estate tax attorney helps people who are developing their estate plan. Estate plans must be created for anyone who has any property of material worth or for anyone who has children, especially children under the age of 18. An estate tax attorney must be current in the field of estate tax law on both the federal and the state level and in specialized trusts. Every year, the estate tax code is updated – and even slight changes can make a large difference in the outcome of a client’s estate.

The estate tax attorney must understand the details of the federal estate tax law. In addition, he must be up-to-date on the federal tax law exemptions and deductions, such as the personal exemption, marital deduction, and charitable deduction. In general, they allow a client to leave large amounts of property free from an estate tax.


An estate tax attorney will not allow his client to fall into certain “tax traps.” For example, for the marital deduction, if it is true that there is not a federal estate tax on property that is left to the living spouse, people might mistakenly believe that leaving all property to the living spouse is the best method to avoid taxes. A good estate tax attorney will know that such an action is not always the best, from an estate tax perspective. In some cases, he may encourage his clients to create a trust. By using a trust, the living spouse can use the income in the trust, but he will never actually become the legal owner of the property in the trust.

It is best if the estate tax attorney is familiar and current with the state estate laws and inheritance tax, as well. Typically, state estate taxes are small amounts of money and inheritance taxes are only imposed in a few states. Since the laws vary from state to state, a lawyer should be able to inform his client on the various options on his state of residence.

Currently, the United States has a gift tax on large gifts made during a person’s lifetime. They hold the same rates as estate tax rate and are imposed on the giver of the gift only. An estate tax attorney will be able to explain to his client the exceptions to the rules of the gift tax, such as the annual exemption, the marital exemption, and the exemption for medical bills and education expenses.

Although some people will feel that they can conduct all aspects of estate planning without the help of a lawyer, many people will want to have the most informed information to basis their plan on. In some instances, an estate planning specialist will be better suited to handle needs involving estate tax planning and specialized trusts. Some people prefer an estate planning specialist for more complex estate planning needs.

Finding a lawyer or specialist that can form a good working relationship with his clients is key. Word-of-mouth is the best way to find a reputable estate tax attorney – from family, friends, networking circles, and even from lawyers in other fields. In addition, be certain that any fee arrangement is determined before work is begun, in writing, to avoid exorbitant charges. Lastly, it is always recommended that a person does a little background research on both the attorney and the subject matter before handing the estate over to him.


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