The federal estate tax has a very broad definition of what's called the gross estate. For federal estate tax purposes, the gross estate includes your estate assets, or those assets that pass through your probate. It also includes assets that are within a revocable living trust, even if you're avoided probate. And it includes all those assets that pass by operation of law, meaning either through a beneficiary designation or under a payable-on-death or via right of survivorship. It's very broad. My advice to you is you feel like you may be at an estate tax situation, you need to meet with an estate planning attorney who has experience in estate tax scenarios. Someone who is a CPA or may have a masters of tax in law as well.
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Michael L. Cahill is an attorney and certified public accountant providing estate planning, probate and tax services in the St. Petersburg, Seminole, Largo, Clearwater and Florida gulf beach communities.