California Estate Tax: How It Works, Exemptions, And Getting Tax Relief

Attorney Image By: James Filippi

No matter our financial status, we all need to consider estate planning. If for nothing, a properly planned and executed estate could save our family’s prolonged litigations after our death.

It can also provide families with some financial security and peace of mind. The sad thing is that most people don’t consider this for reasons unknown. Currently, around 30 percent of US citizens have an estate plan, but the other 70 percent will leave their loved ones scrambling. 

What Is An Estate?

An estate is the assets and capital we wish to leave behind for the family or whomever in simple financial terms. It includes insurance policies, real estate, bank accounts, lands, bonds, and other investments.

Estate Planning

To ensure our estate goes to the right people, we need to plan it. How do you want your properties distributed or shared after your death? Estate planning is therefore designating your assets to particular individuals.

It stipulates what goes to members of the family, other persons, or organization. This is very important because whoever inherits this is supposed to continue the legacy. It is also a way to cut down the income tax, estate tax, and other taxes on the beneficiaries.

Importance of Estate Planning

Prevents Family Disputes

There are several instances of family clashes after the demise of a benefactor. When a wealthy person dies, the probability of the family being at each other’s neck is very high, especially if there is no clear estate plan.

The result ends in long, drawn-out court battles and family members arguing for extended periods of time of your assets. You can prevent such feuds by planning your estate today.

Secures Beneficiaries

Planning our estate protects the beneficiaries from misunderstandings and unexpected takeovers. Whomever you designate your assets to with the help of a competent law firm like Filippi Law, P.C., means your heirs are protected.

Without a comprehensive estate plan that meets the California estate laws, the court would decide who gets what from your estate regardless of your wishes.

Prevents Beneficiaries From Paying Unnecessary Taxes

Estate taxes can scare many people and causes a lot of unnecessary stress among families. However, having an estate plan in place can help reduce the tax burdens on your beneficiaries and ensure the process goes smoothly.

It can save them from paying your high taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. The US lifetime tax exemption on inheritance is currently set at $12.06 million. However, this can change along with other federal and state estate taxes.

What Are Estate Taxes?

An estate tax is an amount levied on the properties of a deceased. In short, the government is taxing you for transferring your properties to other people. However, there can be exemptions.

The estate’s value must exceed the exclusion list set by your state to attract taxes. The tax component is based on the estate’s fair market value at a particular time. Therefore, if you own land, a house, or any other property in Sacramento, you should include them in your estate plan.

Note: The tax component would be based on the property’s current value and not how much you acquired it.

California Estate Tax

Residents in California attest to the fact that they are one of the most heavily taxed people in the country. However, the good news is that California does not have its own estate tax regime. But you may still have to pay some taxes on your inheritance depending on its value as set by federal laws.

Besides the state laws, the Federal Government has an estate tax. The difference is that federal taxes are levied on huge inheritance and apply everywhere. This means that any inheritance in California that exceeds certain thresholds may be subject to federal laws.

How California Estate Tax Works

For now, California has no estate or gift tax, but you may have to pay federal taxes on those gifts or inheritances. Currently, $16,000 is the annual federal gift tax exclusion per recipient.

It is refreshing to know that the federal death tax is for assets valued at $12.06 million and above for each person. Couples can maximize this tax exemption with proper estate planning.

Estates above the mentioned exemption amount attract 18% to 40% in taxes, meaning you’ll have no tax burden when the estate is below the set value.

Here is how the taxing system works in California:

In California, estate planning can help you escape the huge taxes even if your inheritance exceeds the 2022 tax exemptions. You need to understand the laws very well to take advantage of them. 

As mentioned, California State has no estate tax. This is because the state’s death tax was repealed in 1982. However, portions of the inheritance may be subject to taxes so please consult with an attorney or CPA to ensure you are properly prepared.

Filippi Law Firm, P.C. can assist with all your California estate planning needs and share tips to avoid burdensome taxes. Hiring an attorney can help you take advantage of the various loopholes and benefits within the tax system.


Having an estate plan in place at the time of your death can allow your loved ones and other beneficiaries to move on with their lives without the stress of dealing with probate courts.

Contact us today to see how we can help you with your estate planning. 

Filippi Law Firm, P.C., provides legal services in estate planning, probate, trust administration, trust litigation, and personal bankruptcy in the greater Sacramento area, with a focus in Rocklin, Roseville, Lincoln, and Granite Bay. Give us a call at (916) 333-7910 or fill out the contact form to get in touch with our office. Consultations are free, and they can be done over the phone, via Zoom, or in person at our office in Rocklin. Prepare for your future and work with the best estate planning attorneys today.

Satisfied Client Stories


Was going in for heart surgery in a week and needed an Estate Plan ASAP! Jennifer and the staff at Filippi Law Firm managed to put together my plan, which was rather extensive, within that time frame. This gave me the peace of mind I needed in case the worst happened. Luckily it wasn’t need but I now have it in case I ever do. Great staff and wonderful to work with. Wouldn’t go to anyone else. Would give 10 stars if I could.

Matthew S. | Antelope, CA

We recently relocated from the Bay Area and wanted to update our over-25-year-old Living Trust. He did an outstanding job. He also gave us some contacts in Texas to update some property we own there.

Elmer Y. | Rocklin, CA

Patient and caring and trustworthy are the best words to describe the service my husband and I received. We highly recommend this law firm.

Koren C. | California

I highly recommend Filippi Law Firm. Katia, is extremely genuine very helpful. Great communication from beginning to end. We will work with this law office again. Thanks, team!

Robin G. | California

Loved working with the team here for legal services. Responsive and professional and kept me updated through the process. Great all-around experience!

Matthew J. | California

Always there for you !! Always answering all your questions!! The experience was easy , fast and affordable!! There team is amazing!!!

Michelle W. | Vacaville, CA

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