However, there is a HUGE caveat to these changes: If the estate is valued at more than 5% over the exemption amount (currently, 5% over approximately $2 million), then the ENTIRE estate becomes subject to New York's approximately 16% estate tax rate. Under the old law (and under federal law) only the portion of the estate exceeding the exemption amount was taxed (at the same 16% rate).
Imagine if you die in New York with an estate that is just one dollar over 5% more than the exemption amount. Then your estate pays 16% of the whole estate rather than zero in estate taxes.
Additionally, the new changes don't include a portability provision like federal estate tax law does. Portability essentially means that if one spouse of a legally married couple dies and doesn't use his full exemption, the surviving spouse can use it when he or she dies, effectively doubling the exemption amount a married couple can enjoy. But again, this is only for federal purposes, not New York state purposes. The good news is that an experienced estate planning attorney can include trust provisions in the wills of a married couple that effectively achieve the same thing, even for New York estate tax purposes.
So, despite this being a great thing for the vast majority of New Yorkers who are not "super rich"--even if some of those people have quite sizable estates--for a certain part of the population perils still exist.