In general, the fair market value of any unpaid installment obligation on the date of death is included in the estate of the seller. However, if the note contains a properly designed self-cancellation provision, the buyer is under no obligation to make any further payments after the seller’s premature death, which leaves no unpaid balance to be included in the seller’s estate. The self-canceling feature can be an effective means of transferring property to family members without estate or gift tax consequences in the event of the death of the seller-transferor before the last potential payment has been made under the terms of the installment note.
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