You must file federal estate tax return to get spouse's exclusion

See what paperwork you need to file to ensure that your late spouse's assets are protected.

Q: My wife died last year, leaving assets of less than $5 million. Must I file a federal estate tax return?

A: It is not required, but for your beneficiaries to enjoy the benefit of both your and your wife's exclusion at the time of your death through "portability," you are required to file a Form 706 (the federal estate tax return). This form generally is due 9 months after the death of a spouse. If your spouse died in the first half of 2011, however, the Internal Revenue Service has permitted retroactive extensions, giving you 15 months from the date of death to request an extension and to file Form 706.