The estate tax is exemption is the amount that you can pass free of estate tax upon your death.
Federal Estate Tax Rules:
For 2017, the Federal estate tax exemption amount is $5.49 million.
Although this should be applied "per person", due to nuances of how the estate tax exemption works, many married couples "miss out" on using one of their estate tax exemptions. A properly structured estate plan for a married couple can ensure that both spouses exemptions are maximized so as to pass on $10.98 million or more to children and family free of federal estate taxes.
The estate tax exemption is based upon the tax rates upon your date of death, thus the federal estate tax exemption could increase or decrease in the future. As such, it is important to regularly review the estimated value of your gross estate and your estate planning.
For estate tax purposes, your gross estate generally consists of all assets that you own such as bank accounts, savings accounts, CDs, brokerage or investment accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement plans (401Ks, IRAs, etc.), annuities, real estate, business interests, and death benefit of life insurance, less any debts such as a mortgage.
North Carolina Estate Tax Rules:
North Carolina repealed the state-level estate tax in 2013, so for those dying on or after January 1, 2013, no North Carolina estate tax will be owed.