Do I have to pay California estate taxes?
Though there can be other taxes involved in wrapping up a person's estate, especially if income or business financial matters are a concern, it's not likely that most individuals dealing with an estate today will be required to pay California state death taxes.
According to the California State Controller's Office, an estate tax return does not have to be filed for the estate of any decedent that passed away on Jan. 1, 2005, or later. If an individual passed away between June 8, 1982, and Jan. 1, 2005, then the state estate tax return is only required if the estate also filed a Form 706, which is the federal estate return submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.
Estate and gift taxes will continue to be collected by the Controller's office for estates or individuals that died before June 8, 1982. Though that seems like a long time ago, estate and probate litigation can take years to resolve, and estates can file extensions and payment plans regarding estate tax payments. It's not impossible that estates exist in California that are still making payments or finalizing issues from that time period.
Because other taxes may be associated with the funds and disbursements of an estate, it's important not to disregard tax responsibilities all together. Understanding the legal and financial obligations of an estate lets heirs and executors make decisions now so that issues such as taxes don't become a surprise in the future. Even though the state death tax is unlikely to come into play in California, there may be other states or entities involved in the estate's transactions.
Source: California State Controller's Office, "California Estate Tax" Sep. 04, 2014