Benjamin Franklin said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. For some, they come at the same time.

If a Massachusetts resident has over $1 million in assets upon their death (including the death benefits of their life insurance policies), then they must file a Massachusetts Estate tax Return (Form M-706), and pay an estate tax. The federal threshold is much higher, recently raised to $11 million, subject to periodic adjustment. The return (or request for extension) must be filed within nine months of the date of death.

An estate tax return is more complex than a standard income tax return. In addition to tallying the values of assets and debts, there are several other issues to address. Sometimes the Personal Representative/Executor must make special elections to gain preferable tax treatment on certain property. Sometimes a better result can occur if a beneficiary disclaims their right to part of their inheritance. If the decedent owned real estate, then an estate tax lien automatically attaches to the property, and a release must be obtained before a sale can occur.

Some property, such as real estate and closely-held businesses must be appraised to determine their taxable value. It may be unclear whether certain property is even a part of the taxable estate. Sometimes, even property that a decedent does not own will be part of their taxable estate.

It is important to seek professional advice soon if your loved one's estate is facing an estate tax.


We're glad that you're using this website to educate yourself about these important issues. While it may seem daunting, the most important step is as simple as a phone call or email.


The Law Office of David E. Peterson


Beverly Office

86 Dodge Street
Beverly, MA 01923

Burlington Office

2 Burlington Woods Drive, Suite 100
Burlington, MA 01803