We've all heard the old saying: "Nothing is sure but death and taxes." And sometimes with estate taxes, you get to experience both at nearly the same time -- unless you're married. If your spouse passes away, anything included in his or her estate and left to you as the surviving spouse becomes eligible for a huge tax break known as the estate tax marital deduction. Everything that is part of the estate passes to you with no federal taxes to pay.
The IRS actually considers this a tax deferment. They will collect their share of the estate once it passes from you to your heirs. The estate tax marital deduction buys the surviving spouse some time, however, to make changes to the estate that will ease the tax burden on his or her heirs [source: IRS Estate].