How do I protect the amount of money in my estate?

Elder Law Attorney Ashley Securda

After a person passes away, there are several items that need to be addressed. First is whether or not the decedent (the fancy legal word for the person that passed away) even has an estate. If you die owning anything individually, you have an estate. The keyword is “individually” – how your assets are owned. Generally speaking, if you pass away and all of your assets are owned jointly (with your spouse, perhaps), then you technically don’t have an “estate”.

If you do have an estate, the next question is are there any taxes due. In Pennsylvania, if you inherit anything from anyone you must pay inheritance tax on that inheritance (there are some exceptions and exclusions). Inheritance tax is based upon your relationship to the decedent and measured by a percentage of the value of the asset (item or thing you inherit). For example, if a parent passes away leaving everything to a child, the child will pay 4.5% of the value of the asset the child inherits. If the child inherited a bank account with $100,000 in it, the inheritance tax due from the child would be $4,500.

The current Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Rates are as follows:

Heir (who inherits the assets) Tax Rate
Spouse or a charity 0%, tax exempt
Child (including step-children), or a lineal heir or descendant (grandchild, parent, etc.) 4.5%
Sibling 12%
Anyone else (friend, cousin, nephew, niece) 15%


Without proper planning, your loved ones may be forced to pay up to 15% of the value of your asset in taxes. As an Elder Law Attorney, one of our goals is to reduce or eliminate inheritance tax (yes, it is possible. Sorry Uncle Sam). Call us at (570) 622-5933 today to speak to either Attorney Eric Mika, CELA, or Attorney Ashley Securda, our team of experienced Elder Law Attorneys.


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