In 1948, as the culmination of much dissatisfaction with the treatment of community property under the federal estate and gift tax laws, Congress adopted a new formula for the treatment of gifts and bequests between spouses; this formula was known as the marital deduction. It has remained practically unchanged since its adoption and still stands as an integral part of our federal estate and gift tax structure.

The basic purpose of the deduction was to provide equalization in estate and gift tax treatment between spouses residing in community property states and those residing in common law property states. The plan of this article is to analyze the marital deduction against the experience of eight years to determine whether or not it has lived up to this basic purpose.