DEFINITION of 'Unlimited Marital Deduction'

A provision in United States Federal Estate and Gift Tax Law that allows an individual to transfer an unrestricted amount of assets to his or her spouse at any time, including at the death of the transferor, free from tax. The unlimited marital deduction is considered an estate preservation tool because assets can be distributed to surviving spouses without incurring estate or gift tax liabilities.

BREAKING DOWN 'Unlimited Marital Deduction'

Any asset that is transferred to a surviving spouse can be included in the spouse's taxable estate unless it is spent or gifted during the surviving spouse's lifetime. Alternatively, if the surviving spouse remarries, the unlimited marital deduction may allow the assets to pass to his or her surviving spouse without the application of estate and/or gift taxes. In some situations less taxes will be paid by using other estate planning methods such as using exemptions or trusts.


The unlimited marital deduction applies only to surviving spouses that are United States citizens. A qualified domestic trust (or QDOT) may be obtained to provide unlimited marital deductions for non-qualified spouses.

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