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For most people, the federal estate tax is not a significant concern.  The exemption amount is $5 million!  But, look out, it may be about to drop, and drop hard – to only $1 million.  So says the Boston Globe. in a recent article. 

"So what?" you say, "I'm not a millionaire!"  
Are you sure?  
Add it up:  the estate tax is a tax on the total value of:
  • Your home (less the outstanding mortgage), valued at the market value on the day you die; plus
  • the payout on all life insurance on your life; plus
  • the value of all your retirement accounts; plus
  • the value of all your investment accounts; plus
  • the value of all your bank accounts; plus
  • the value of all your tangible personal property (art work, jewelry and collectibles very much included).
Add it all up.  Is it a lot less than a million?  Congratulations, estate taxes are not likely a big issue for you right now.  
Is it around 750,000 and growing?  You might want to do some thinking, assuming you are not planning on dying soon.  
If it's more than that you might want to consider investing some (tax-deductible!) money in estate tax planning.  If Congress doesn't act to stop it, the federal estate tax will claim at least 55% of every dollar over a million.