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Kentucky Estate Tax


There is no estate tax in Kentucky. However, there is an inheritance tax that residents should be aware of when thinking about estate planning. This difference means that estate owners won’t have their assets taxed, but some heirs who receive assets from an estate may be liable to pay taxes on those inheritances. There is also the federal estate tax to think about, which would apply only if your estate is worth $13.61 million or more, as of 2024.

Do you have questions about estate planning? If so, consider finding a financial advisor today.

Kentucky Estate Tax

Kentucky has no estate tax, making it one of 38 such states. However, your beneficiary could be imposed with an inheritance tax, as discussed below.

What Is the Estate Tax?

A government levies the estate tax on the estate of a person who has recently died. The tax is levied before the money or assets in the estate are passed on to the person’s legally designated heirs. Sometimes called the “death tax,” the estate tax only applies to estates that are worth more than a certain threshold. Whichever government is levying the tax legally determines that threshold.

The inheritance tax is not the same as the estate tax. States levy inheritance tax on money and assets after they’re already passed on to a person’s heirs. Beneficiaries are responsible for paying the inheritance tax.

Kentucky Inheritance and Gift Tax

Kentucky Estate Tax

Kentucky does have an inheritance tax. The size of the inheritance and the beneficiary’s relationship to the grantor determines the tax rate. There are three basic classes of relationships for the Kentucky inheritance tax:

  • Class A includes spouses, parents, children (by blood, adopted during infancy or adopted during adulthood but raised during infancy), stepchildren, grandchildren and siblings, including half-siblings. These individuals are all fully exempt from the inheritance tax.
  • Class B includes nephews, nieces, half-nephews, half-nieces, children-in-law, aunts, uncles and great-grandchildren. These individuals have an exemption of $1,000 and are then taxed in ascending brackets with rates ranging from 4% to 16%.
  • Class C includes all other relations, as well as educational, religious or other institutions that are not exempted by law. These individuals or institutions have a $500 exemption and are then taxed in ascending brackets with rates ranging from 6% to 16%.

Kentucky does not have a gift tax. The federal gift tax has an exemption of $18,000, per recipient, as of 2024. That means if you give one person more than $18,000 in 2024, you must report it to the IRS. The excess counts against your lifetime gift tax exemption of $13.61 million and also decreases your federal estate tax exemption.

Federal Estate Tax

Though Kentucky does not have an estate tax, the federal government does. The federal estate tax could apply to you if your estate is of sufficient value. For 2024, the exemption is $13.61 million, which is an increase over the 2023 exemption of $12.92 million. The estate tax exemption is portable, meaning that one spouse can pass their exemption to the other spouse. Thus, with the right legal maneuvers, a married couple can protect up to $27.22 million of their estate when the second spouse dies, as of 2024.

An estate worth more than the exemption is subject to a progressive estate tax, with a top rate of 40%. A full table of rates is provided below.

Here’s how it works: Say you have an estate worth $18.43 million and are not married. First, you subtract the exemption of $13.61 million from the total value of your estate, leaving you with a taxable estate of $4.82 million. This places you in the top tax bracket. The base rate on the first $1 million is $345,800. You’ll also owe 40% on the remaining $3.82 million, which comes out to $1.528 million. Add that figure to your base rate and your total estate tax burden is $1,873,800.

Federal Estate Tax Rates

Taxable Estate*Base Taxes PaidMarginal RateRate Threshold**
$1 – $10,000$018%$1
$10,001 – $20,000$1,80020%$10,001
$20,001 – $40,000$3,80022%$20,001
$40,001 – $60,000$8,20024%$40,001
$60,001 – $80,000$13,00026%$60,001
$80,001 – $100,000$18,20028%$80,001
$100,001 – $150,000$23,80030%$100,001
$150,001 – $250,000$38,80032%$150,001
$250,001 – $500,000$70,80034%$250,001
$500,001 – $750,000$155,80037%$500,001
$750,001 – $1,000,000$248,30039%$750,001
Over $1 million$345,80040%$1,000,001

*The taxable estate is the total above the 2024 federal exemption of $13.61 million.
**The rate threshold is the point at which the marginal estate tax rate kicks in.

Overall Kentucky Tax Picture

Kentucky Estate Tax

Kentucky is a tax friendly-state for retirees. The state does not tax Social Security benefits, and it partially taxes withdrawals from retirement accounts like 401(k) plans and income from private and public pensions. As of 2023, seniors can deduct up to $31,110 of all retirement income, so if your total retirement income from pensions and retirement accounts is less than that amount then you won’t pay income tax on it. Kentucky has a flat statewide income tax of 4.5%. Cities and counties can also charge an income tax.

Property taxes are low in Kentucky, as the average effective rate is just 0.85%.

Bottom Line

Kentucky can be a strong state to retire in because of the beneficial tax picture. There is a standard sales tax, low property taxes and the state does not tax social security benefits. Most importantly, the state of Kentucky is one of many states that does not impose an estate tax so you’ll only have to keep the federal tax in mind when making your estate plan.

Estate Planning Tips

  • Your estate plan might benefit from some help from a professional who can work with you in building a plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Check the local rules when you’re writing your will. Not doing so is a common mistake and can lead to even more problems for you. Each state has different guidelines, and the state could declare your will invalid if you don’t adhere to them.

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