Estate Tax Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Estate Tax, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Estate Tax?

n. generally a federal tax on the transfer of a dead person’s assets to his heirs and beneficiaries. Although a transfer tax, it is based on the amount in the decedent’s estate (including distribution from a trust at the death) and can include insurance proceeds. Currently such federal taxation applies to the amount of an estate above $600,000, or as much as double that amount if the estate is distributed to a spouse. Some states have an estate tax, more commonly called an inheritance tax.