Does estate planning involve tax planning?

Often the creation of a will or a revocable inter vivos trust will involve substantial tax planning, particularly for larger estates. Estate planning generally focuses upon federal estate taxes, but also may encompass income, gift, generation-skipping, real property or qualified retirement plan taxes. Generally, federal estate taxes will be due when the total value of all the property in the estate equals or exceeds $2,000,000 (for the years 2006, 2007, and 2008). The surviving spouses of decedents who were married at the time of their deaths can elect to defer the estate taxes that would otherwise be due until their own deaths (i.e., this is the so-called “marital deduction"). Although proper planning can reduce or even eliminate these estate taxes, such planning usually must occur before death.