The Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline to file estate tax returns and make a portability election to benefit the surviving spouses of married individuals who died during the first six months of 2011.

The portability election passes along the decedent spouse’s unused estate and gift tax exclusion amount to the surviving spouse. The IRS said Friday that an extension is now available to the estates of married individuals with assets of $5 million or less, but only if the decedent spouse died in the first six months of 2011, and the executor files Form 4768 requesting an extension no later than 15 months after the date of death. 

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