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What is the estate tax exemption and how is it calculated?

Broadly speaking, the estate tax is calculated on the amount in an individual’s estate at the time of their death. In 2012, if an individual’s estate is larger than $5,120,000 it will be taxed at a 35% marginal rate. If a married couple dies in 2012, they can have an estate worth $10,240,000 before a 35% marginal rate is applied. These aforementioned amounts are known as the estate tax “exemption.”