While it is no longer true to a great extent, some still think that there is a death tax that has to be paid if a person’s estate goes to probate.
In 2018, only an estate of $11.18 million or more is subject to federal estate tax. Below that, there is no federal estate tax owed. West Virginia does not have an estate tax.
For the great majority of Americans, the death tax is dead.
Further, the process of probating a deceased person’s will means simply that the will’s provisions will be legally binding on the person’s estate.
An executor is appointed to handle all of the tasks related to finding and organizing the property and assets, communicating with the heirs, paying off debts, completing the paperwork, and making appropriate distributions.
If the person has not left a will, that is called dying intestate. The West Virginia law of intestate succession controls who is entitled to inherit when there is no will. The law first provides for inheritance by the surviving spouse, then to children if there is no surviving spouse, and if there are no spouse or children, to certain other people in the deceased person’s family tree.
For such an estate, someone can come forward and get appointed as administrator to handle the same duties which an executor would.
By law, a will or the intestate process only controls certain property or accounts. Jointly owned real estate or other property is transferred to the remaining owners. Some accounts will have after-death beneficiaries listed, such as a retirement account, and that designation controls the transfer to them.
The myth of the death tax has persisted for so long that it still scares some people out of doing appropriate planning. If you want different people to inherit from you than what the law of intestate succession provides, a will and asset planning can help fulfil your wishes regarding who gets your things after you die.
On this and other legal issues, the West Virginia Senior Legal Aid program can help with answers to your legal questions for those age 60 and over. Call 800-229-5078 to speak with the staff attorney at no charge.