What is the unlimited marital deduction?

The federal government allows every married individual to give an unlimited amount of assets either by gift or bequest, to his or her spouse without the imposition of any federal gift or estate taxes.  In effect, the unlimited marital deduction allows married couples to delay the payment of estate taxes at the passing of the first spouse because at the death of the surviving spouse, all assets in the estate over applicable exclusion amount ($5,000,000 in 2011 and 2012) will be included in the survivor's taxable estate.  It is important to keep in mind that the unlimited marital deduction is only available to surviving spouses who are United States citizens.

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