One thing many people do not know, even those living in California, is that there is no California Inheritance Tax. There is an estate tax that is based on Federal Estate Law, but anyone who died on or after January first, 2005 is not subject to the estate tax either. Any estate worth one point five million dollars or less is exempt from federal estate taxes.
You may be wondering how that is possible since so many people pay tax on property inherited in California. California has no inheritance tax, but they do have a death tax. California's death tax (it is the same as the estate tax) is based on Federal Estate tax. However, whatever amount you pay to California, you get a credit on the federal estate tax. So if the death/estate tax in California that you have to pay is $400, you get a $400 credit from the federal tax. The one point five million dollar federal exemption is applicable in to the California death/estate tax as well.
What that all means is that if your father dies and leaves his estate to you, and his estate is worth less than 1.5 million dollars, you are not required to file taxes on the estate federally or in California. If it is worth more than 1.5 million dollars, then you will need to file taxes for the estate.
However, like most tax laws, the California Death/Estate Tax changes frequently. Starting in 2009, a federal estate tax will have to be paid on all estates that are worth more than 3.5 million dollars. This is a federal tax though, not a California inheritance tax. There are options available to avoid higher estate taxes or to help reduce them like a revocable living trust. This is something you would want to discuss with a lawyer based on the estimated net worth of your estate though.
While there are many incredible things about living in California (the ocean, the mountains, the desert, and the farmland are all in drive able distance no matter where you live in California) one of the best things about living in California is it is one of only seventeen United States that does not have an inheritance tax. While it can be very expensive to live in California, there are tax breaks available that help. One of those "breaks" is a lack of inheritance tax and a high limit for federal estate tax.