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For the purpose of determining whether or not an estate must file a federal estate tax return, the total of all property someone owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of probate. taxes are due only on the value of the property the person actually owned (the net estate) plus the amount of taxable gifts made during the last three years of life. in a few states, the gross estate is used when computing attorney fees for probating estates; the lawyer gets a percentage of the gross estate.

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