Understanding Taxes on Inheritance: Types, Exemptions, and How to Protect Your Inheritance

Inheriting assets or money from a loved one can be a welcome gift, but it’s essential to understand the potential tax implications that come with it. This blog will explore the different types of taxes that can affect your inheritance, answer common questions about inheritance taxes, and provide tips for protecting your inheritance.

Is Inheritance Taxable?

Whether inheritance is taxable depends on the type of asset being inherited and the residence status of the beneficiary. Generally, there are three major types of taxes that may be applicable to inherited property: estate tax, gift tax, and income tax. In the U.S., any assets held in a decedent’s estate will have estate taxes levied by either the federal government or individual states if their value exceeds a certain threshold.

Estate taxes can range from 18% up to 40%, depending on how much money is involved and how it is distributed among beneficiaries. Gift taxes are assessed when an individual gives away money or other resources during his/her lifetime. This includes any gifts made to charities, trust funds for minors, and other similar types of transfers.

In the U.S., gifts up to $15,000 per year are exempt from gift taxes.Income taxes may also be applicable in some cases. For example, if an asset such as real estate is inherited and then sold by the beneficiary for a profit, that profit may be subject to income tax. It is important to note that income tax is assessed on the total amount earned after deducting all expenses related to selling the property (such as legal fees or agents’ commissions).

It is also important to consider any exemptions or deductions available when assessing whether inheritance will be taxable. The federal government allows for certain exemptions when it comes to estate taxes, including those related to spousal inheritance and charitable giving. In addition, some states have their own exemptions or deductions that may apply.

Types of Taxes that Can Affect Your Inheritance

When it comes to taxes, inheritance can be subject to several different types of taxes depending on the location and financial value of the assets. Generally, there are three main types of taxes that can affect an inheritance: estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and capital gains taxes.

Estate Taxes:

Estate tax is a federal tax that is imposed when someone dies. The deceased’s estate is responsible for paying this tax on any portion of their estate above a certain threshold. The amount of the threshold varies from state to state, but often ranges from $1 million-$5 million USD. It’s important to note that residents in some states may not pay any estate tax at all.

Inheritance Tax:

Inheritance tax is a state tax that is imposed on the recipient of an inheritance. This tax rate varies from state to state, but is generally between 7-25%. Additionally, some states may exempt certain family members such as spouses and children from paying inheritance tax.

Capital Gains Tax:

Capital gains tax is a federal tax imposed when selling assets or property for more than what it was purchased for. For example, if you inherited real estate worth $500,000 USD that was originally purchased for $250,000 USD then you would be subject to capital gains taxes on the additional $250,000 USD. It’s important to note that not all states charge capital gains taxes.

Gift Tax:

Gift tax is another type of taxation on inheritance and applies to any money or property that has been gifted from an individual to another. There are two types of gift tax: annual exclusion gifts and taxable gifts. Annual exclusion gifts are exempt from taxation up to a certain amount depending on the year, but all other gifts over this threshold are subject to gift tax.

In order to be exempt from gift tax, you must properly document your gifts in writing and fill out a Form 709 Gift Tax Return with the IRS. The good news is that there are many exemptions for gift taxes, such as educational expenses for tuition or medical payments for someone else. Additionally, you can transfer up to $15,000 of your property each year without incurring a gift tax.

Inheritance Taxes vs. Estate Taxes: Differences and Similarities

Inheritance taxes and estate taxes are similar in that they both place a tax on the transfer of wealth from one person to another, typically upon death. However, there are some important differences between the two types of taxes.

Similarities Between Inheritance Taxes and Estate Taxes

  • Both inheritance taxes and estate taxes are imposed on the transfer of wealth, usually upon death.
  • The two types of taxes also share similar tax rates that depend on who receives the assets and how much is being transferred. Generally, the closer a person is to the deceased in terms of relationship, the more favourably they may be taxed.
  • Additionally, both types of taxes are typically owed to state governments rather than the federal government. This means that different states can (and often do) have different rules regarding which one applies and at what rate.
  • Finally, both inheritance taxes and estate taxes can potentially be minimized or avoided through careful planning ahead with an accountant or tax attorney.

Differences Between Inheritance Taxes and Estate Taxes

  • The primary difference between an inheritance tax and an estate tax is who pays the taxes. Inheritance taxes are paid by the individual receiving the inheritance, while estate taxes are paid by the estate of the deceased. This means that if a deceased leaves multiple heirs, each would be liable for paying their own inheritance tax but only one party – typically the executor of the will or trust – would be responsible for paying any applicable estate taxes.
  • Another key difference is that inheritance taxes must be paid before any assets can legally be transferred to a beneficiary, while estate taxes can often be delayed until after assets have been distributed.
  • Finally, inheritance taxes are usually much lower than estate taxes since they are levied on individuals rather than large estates as a whole.

States That Have Estate Taxes, Inheritance Taxes, or Both

In the United States, estate taxes and inheritance taxes can vary from state to state. Nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have an estate tax: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.

Six states impose a separate inheritance tax: Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland , Nebraska , New Jersey and Pennsylvania . Connecticut, Minnesota and Rhode Island still impose an inheritance tax, but they are phasing it out by 2022.

In addition, 15 states impose both estate and inheritance taxes: Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland , Minnesota Massachusetts, Nebraska , New Jersey , New York , Oregon, Pennsylvania Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington. States often look to estate tax revenue as a way to generate funds for specific programs or initiatives. For example, Hawaii imposes an estate tax in order to fund long-term care services for seniors.

How to Avoid Inheritance Tax or Minimize Inheritance Tax

Although the taxation of inheritances varies by state, there are several methods that can be used to minimize or avoid inheritance taxes. Many states allow for certain deductions in order to reduce the taxable value of an inheritance. For example, some states allow for a deduction on any amount paid to funeral expenses, which can help lower the estate tax liability. In addition, gifts given during one’s lifetime may be exempt from taxation, depending on the state.

States that impose an inheritance tax may also allow for certain deductions or exemptions to reduce the taxable value of an inheritance. For example, some states allow for a deduction on any amount paid to funeral or medical expenses, or credit against the tax liability for gifts given during one’s lifetime. Other states offer a small estate exemption to reduce the taxable value of smaller estates.

Additionally, some states offer discounts if heirs elect to pay their taxes over time rather than all at once.

Watch Out for Capital Gains Taxes:

In addition to inheritance and estate taxes, heirs may also be liable for capital gains taxes on any inherited assets that have appreciated in value since their original purchase. Typically, the heir will pay capital gains tax on the difference between the cost basis of the asset (the amount originally paid for it) and its market value at the time it was inherited. Knowing this, it is important to keep track of a deceased person’s assets over time so that heirs can accurately calculate any potential capital gains taxes that may be owed.

Inheritance Tax Exemptions:

Inheritance tax can be a big burden for many people, but there are some ways to minimize or even avoid it altogether.

Spousal Exemption:

If you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse or partner may be entitled to an unlimited tax-free amount on everything they inherit from you. All that needs to be done is making sure the will of the deceased specified that their entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.

Charitable Donations:

Giving money or assets to charity is not just good deed, it also serves as an inheritance tax exemption up to £3,000 each year with no limit on how many years this allowance can be used consecutively. Any amount over the £3,000 limit can be carried forward for one year.

Annual Allowance:

You may be able to gift up to £3000 each tax year and pay no inheritance tax. This allows you to make gifts of any amount on top of the annual allowance, but it will then be subject to inheritance tax after seven years from when the first gift was made.

Business Property Relief (BPR):

Business property relief is an exemption for businesses and agricultural land that reduce or eliminate your liability for Inheritance Tax. Any business assets you value over £1 million at the time of death may qualify for this relief and could result in a full exemption from inheritance tax.

Small Gifts Exemption:

Any gifts of up to £250 given by an individual can be exempted from inheritance tax. For example, if you give one relative a gift of £200 and another a gift of £50, this would not count towards the annual allowance mentioned above as both are under the limit.

How Inheritance Tax Exemptions Work

Inheritance tax exemptions are designed to help those who receive an inheritance by reducing the amount of money owed in taxes. The amount that is exempt from taxation depends on the type of exemption as well as other factors such as the size of the estate and any applicable deductions.

Exemptions can be applied to a variety of assets, including cash, stocks, bonds, and real estate. In some cases, family members may also qualify for a marital deduction or special business-related exemptions.

Additionally, any gifts given before death may be exempt from taxation depending on their value at the time they were gifted. It is important to note that not all inheritances are subject to inheritance tax. Some states do not impose any taxes, while others may impose a lower rate than the federal government.

For those who do need to pay inheritance taxes, the amount due is generally calculated using the fair market value of all inherited assets minus any applicable deductions. This calculation is made on an individual basis and can vary widely depending on the total estate value and other factors.

Understanding The Federal and State Exemption Limits on Inheritance

The federal government offers an inheritance tax exemption of up to $11.58 million for individuals and $23.16 million for couples filing jointly in 2021. This is known as the federal estate tax exemption and applies to federal inheritance taxes only.State inheritance tax exemptions vary widely, with some states offering no exemption at all while others may provide an exemption of up to $5 million or more.

Some states also offer special exemptions for certain types of assets such as business interests or family farms. Additionally, many states have a tiered system that provides reduced rates for inheritances below certain amounts.

In addition to the federal and state-level exemptions, those who receive inheritances may be able to take advantage of additional deductions such as charitable contributions or educational costs related to the deceased’s estate.

How Can I Protect My Inheritance From Taxes?

The best way to protect your inheritance from taxes is to plan ahead. Make sure you understand the tax implications of any inheritance you receive and the potential tax liabilities that may arise from it. Consider speaking with a financial advisor or accountant who can provide specific advice tailored to your unique circumstances.

Depending on how you receive your inheritance, there are different strategies for protecting it from taxation. One option is to set up an irrevocable trust, which allows you to place assets in a trust that will be protected from taxation and estate disputes.

Additionally, if the value of your inherited property is expected to increase over time, using a step-up basis can help reduce capital gains taxes later on. An IRA Inheritance Trust (IIT) may also be a viable option for reducing the taxation on your inheritance, since assets in the IIT can be passed to beneficiaries without triggering income taxes.

Finally, if you plan to pass your inheritance on to your heirs, it is important to create an estate plan that outlines how and when they will receive their assets. By taking these steps and planning ahead of time, you can ensure that you are able to protect your inheritance from taxation as much as possible.

Creating a Trust:

Setting up a trust is one of the best ways to protect your inheritance from taxes. An irrevocable trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to place assets in a trust, which will be protected from taxation and estate disputes.

Trusts can also provide flexibility with respect to how and when heirs receive their inheritances. When setting up an irrevocable trust, it is important to work with a qualified estate planning attorney who can help ensure that all of the necessary paperwork is filed properly and in accordance with applicable laws.

It is also important to understand which assets are eligible for trust protection, as not all assets may be suitable for transfer into an irrevocable trust. Understanding how trusts work and seeking professional legal advice will help you create a trust that meets your needs and protects your inheritance from taxation.

Gifting Beneficiaries Before Death:

Another way to protect your inheritance from taxes is to give gifts to beneficiaries before death. By gifting assets directly to an heir, you can reduce the overall tax liability and ensure that your estate passes on as much of its value as possible.

Additionally, gifting assets may provide more flexibility than other strategies such as trusts or step-up basis. Gifting can also be used to prevent assets from being included in a taxable estate if the gift is given at least three years before death.

However, it is important to note that there are certain limits for taxation purposes when giving gifts before death. Knowing these limits and understanding how gifting works will help you use this strategy effectively and protect your inheritance from taxation.

Joint Ownership of Assets:

Adding a joint owner to assets can help protect your inheritance from taxes. When an asset is jointly owned, the ownership share of each person is considered equal and the asset will be divided equally upon death. This means that if you add a joint owner to an asset while you are alive, that person may receive half or more of the value of the asset after your death without it being subject to taxation in your estate.

Additionally, if you transfer property into joint tenancy before death, its fair market value at date of transfer becomes the basis for capital gains tax purposes when it passes on to heirs. It is important to understand any relevant state laws about adding joint owners before taking this step as well as how such arrangements could affect eligibility for Medicaid or other assistance programs.

Strategic Planning for Taxes:

Ultimately, protecting your inheritance from taxes means engaging in strategic tax planning. Taking the time to consider your options and work with a qualified estate planning attorney can help ensure that you make informed decisions about how to preserve the value of your estate.

By understanding all of the potential strategies available as well as any relevant laws, you can create an estate plan that is designed to protect your heirs from excessive taxation while preserving their inheritances for future generations. This will provide peace of mind that your loved ones are able to enjoy the fruits of your labor after you are gone.

Tips for Spending Your Inheritance Wisely

Carefully Consider Immediate Needs:

After an inheritance, you may feel the urge to spend it right away without properly considering your circumstances and future plans. Before making any major purchases or investments, it is important to take a step back and think about what you really need and how much of the money you should use towards that goal.

Create a Budget and Stick To It:

Once you have identified your immediate needs from the windfall of an inheritance, create a budget so that you can keep track of your spending over time. By creating a budget that includes expected income, expenses, debts and savings goals, you will be able to manage your finances more effectively in the long run.

Pay Off Existing Debts:

If you owe money on any loans or credit cards, use a portion of your inheritance to pay off all existing debts. Not only will this free up more money for other investments and purchases, but it will also help improve your overall credit score over time.

Don’t Forget About Taxes:

Any inheritance you receive is subject to taxation. Depending on the amount received, you may be required to pay capital gains tax or estate taxes on the assets that are transferred to you. It is important to understand how much of the inheritance will go towards taxes so that you can plan accordingly and make sure that you do not incur unnecessary debt as a result of tax obligations. 5. Invest in yourself and your future.

Once you have paid off existing debts and accounted for taxes, consider investing a portion of the inheritance in yourself or your future. Investing in yourself may look like furthering your education, starting a business, or buying real estate. When it comes to planning for the future, think about setting up an emergency fund or contributing to a retirement savings plan.

Seek Professional Advice If Needed:

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions that come with inheriting money, it may be beneficial to seek professional advice from a financial advisor or tax consultant who can offer more insight into how best to manage your wealth. This is especially important if the inheritance was complex and involves multiple assets such as real estate properties or stocks and bonds.

Which Estate Plan is best for you?

When deciding which estate plan is best for you, it is important to consider your individual goals and needs.

Your estate plan should reflect your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets upon death, and provide direction to ensure that those wishes are carried out. There are many different types of estate plans available, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, life insurance trusts, charitable remainder trusts and more.

Each type offers unique benefits in terms of asset protection and tax savings. For example, a will allows you to designate beneficiaries who will receive your assets when you die; a revocable living trust allows you to avoid probate court proceedings; an irrevocable trust enables you to make provisions for a loved one with special needs; and a life insurance trust allows you to minimize estate taxes.

The best estate plan is the one that meets your unique goals and needs. It is important to consider any legal implications of your decisions when selecting an estate plan, as well as the financial advantages.


Trusts are an important part of many estate plans. A trust is a legal arrangement that allows a third party, called a trustee, to manage assets on behalf of another person, called the grantor. Trusts allow you to control how your assets are managed and distributed after your death, including directing where and when the assets go to designated beneficiaries.

Trusts can be used to minimize or eliminate estate taxes, protect assets from creditors and provide for loved ones with special needs.Trusts come in many different types and may involve complex legal language. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the type of trust you are considering, as well as any potential tax implications before moving forward.


A will is a written document that states how you would like your assets to be distributed after you die. A will allows you to designate beneficiaries and provide instructions regarding the distribution of your property and other possessions. It also allows you to name an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will.

Wills are an important part of an estate plan, but they do not offer the same level of asset protection as a trust. In addition, wills must go through probate court proceedings before your assets can be distributed according to the instructions in the will.


Probate is the legal process of transferring assets to designated beneficiaries after someone dies. Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process, but it is necessary in order to ensure that assets are distributed according to the wishes of the deceased.

In some cases, probate may be avoided by using a trust, which allows you to designate a trustee who will manage the assets and distribute them according to your instructions.


Guardianship is a legal process that allows a third party to manage the affairs of an incapacitated or disabled individual.

The guardian must be someone that the court determines is suitable to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual, and it is typically reserved for minor children or individuals who are unable to make their own decisions.

A guardianship can be created through a will or trust, and it is important to have a thorough understanding of the legal implications before making any decisions.

Estate Planning:

Estate planning involves making decisions about how you would like your assets to be distributed after you die. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the different types of estate plans and their implications before making any decisions.

Estate planning can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and provide peace of mind for those who will be affected by your death. It is important to consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor when making any decisions related to estate planning.

By creating an effective estate plan, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out and provide financial security for those who will be affected by your death.

End of Life Planning:

End of life planning is an important part of estate planning. It involves making decisions regarding what kind of medical care you would like to receive if you become ill or incapacitated, as well as any funeral arrangements that should be made.

End of life planning can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and provide peace of mind for those who will be affected by your death.

Other Common Questions About Taxes on Inheritance

Is Inheritance Considered Income?

In most cases, inheritance is not considered income for federal tax purposes. When you inherit money or property, any taxes due are usually paid by the estate before the assets are distributed to its beneficiaries. Depending on where you live and your relationship to the deceased, however, you may be subject to certain estate taxes at the state level.

Do You Have to Report Inheritance Money to the IRS?

In most cases, you do not need to report inheritance money to the IRS. If estate or inheritance taxes are due, however, you will need to file Form 706 with the IRS. You may also have to report inherited assets on your income tax return if they generate annual taxable income from interest, dividends or capital gains distributions.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Money Received as a Beneficiary?

You typically do not have to pay taxes on money received as a beneficiary of an estate. However, if you receive income from inherited assets such as stock dividends or rental property, you will be subject to the same tax laws that apply to any earnings. Additionally, you may be responsible for paying any estate taxes due.

Inheritance Tax: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Inheritance tax (also known as estate or death tax) is a type of state-level tax that applies to the transfer of assets from an estate when someone dies. Many states collect this type of tax, but some do not. Additionally, the thresholds for exemption from inheritance taxes vary from state to state.

To avoid paying inheritance taxes, you may want to consider setting up a trust or other estate planning vehicle. This can help you pass on your assets without incurring taxes due at the time of death. It is important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that all of your documents are properly drafted and filed in order to take advantage of any available tax savings.

What is Inheritance Tax?

An inheritance tax is a type of state-level tax that applies to the transfer of assets from an estate when someone dies. Inheritance taxes are paid by beneficiaries, meaning those who receive an inheritance from the deceased.

Inheritance taxes vary from state to state and may be imposed on certain assets such as real estate, stock investments, or other business interests. In some states, inheritance taxes may be avoided or reduced by using trusts and other estate planning vehicles.


At the end of the day, taxes on inheritance are complex and can be burdensome if not handled correctly. While it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to inheritance tax liabilities, there are a few ways to protect yourself from undue taxation. One way is to make sure you have an experienced financial advisor or legal advisor who can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning.

Additionally, you can consider setting up trust funds or other investment vehicles to minimize your liability and protect your inheritance for future generations. With proper planning and advice, you can ensure that as much of your wealth passes to the next generation as possible. It is also important to be aware of the different types of tax exemptions that may be available to help you reduce your inheritance taxes.

By understanding the rules and regulations governing inheritance tax, you can make sure your financial future is secure. It is also recommended to stay informed on changes in legislation or regulations related to taxation and estate planning so that you can adjust your plan accordingly. With the right guidance, you can make sure that your hard-earned wealth is passed on to the next generation with minimal taxation.

In conclusion, understanding taxes on inheritance can be a complex process, but it is an important part of estate planning and protecting your inheritance for future generations. With proper planning, advice from experienced professionals, and staying up to date on changes in tax law, you can ensure that your wealth is passed on with minimal taxation.

Disclaimer: This article serves for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For individualized advice related to inheritance taxes, please consult a qualified professional.

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