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Estate-tax valuation: It's all or nothing

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in Small Business Tax

Q. My father died last year on Sept. 6. Some of the stocks he owned at the time have since declined in value. If we have to pay estate taxes, can we use the current value of those stocks? K.A., Memphis

A. Yes. Normally, the value of assets, such as stocks, is fixed for federal estate-tax purposes on the person’s date of death. But the executor can elect an alternate valuation date (for federal estate-tax purposes) for the estate of six months after the date of death. In that case, the value of the stocks on Mar. 6, 2006, would control. That election can minimize or even eliminate the estate tax due. Tip: There’s one catch. The alternate valuation date must be used for all of your father’s assets. Crunch the numbers carefully before you ask the executor make this election.

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