What Is Estate Tax?
Estate tax differs from income tax in that income tax is owed every year on any incoming revenue. Estate tax is owed on the net value of your estate (if that estate is above a certain value) at the time of your death if you leave your assets to any beneficiary other than your spouse.
Essentially your estate is made up of everything you own: life insurance proceeds, your IRA, your cars, your jewelry, etc., less any debts you may owe on that property. If your home is worth $200,000 but you still owe $95,000 on your mortgage, only $105,000 would be included in your net estate from that property.
How much can you pass on to beneficiaries before estate tax is owed? Currently, you can give or bequeath $600,000 to your beneficiaries free of gift or estate tax. Any amount over that and your beneficiaries will pay dearly.