Over the past several decades, estate planning has been dominated by the era of federal estate tax.1 The federal estate tax exemption of $60,000 before 1977 for an estate with a tax rate ranging from three percent for taxable estates of $5,000 or less to a tax rate of 77 percent for estates over $10,000,000 has given way to an applicable exclusion amount of $5,120,000 for deaths in 2012 and a tax rate of 35 percent.2 That has meant a sharp drop in the percentage of farm and ranch decedents (and of all decedents) filing a federal estate tax return and paying federal estate tax.3



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