Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary

Marital Deduction

A deduction allowed by the federal estate tax laws for all property passed to a surviving spouse who is a U.S. citizen. This deduction (which really functions as an exemption) allows anyone, even a billionaire, to pass his or her entire estate to a surviving spouse without any estate tax at all.Under current federal law, this deduction is not available to same-sex couples even if they were validly married in a state that allows same-sex marriage.