Understanding the role of strategic gifting provides an opportunity to significantly reduce estate tax liabilities, according to a recent article from Forbes, “6 Effective Gifting Strategies To Minimize Your Estate Taxes.” If your goal is to facilitate wealth transition across generations and preserve wealth, these will be useful to know and use.
The annual gift tax exclusion allows you to give generous gifts to as many people as you want without taxes. In 2023, the maximum amount is $17,000 per person and up to $34,000 for married couples filing jointly. In 2024, this increases to $18,000 per person and $36,000 for married. This provision is a foundation for reducing taxable estates. Your estate planning attorney may recommend setting up an annual gifting schedule or using special occasions like a wedding or the birth of a child to make gifts. You can reduce the eventual estate tax burden by systematically gifting within the exclusion limits each year.
A second strategy is maximizing the lifetime gift tax exemption. Unlike an annual gift, the lifetime gift tax exemption is a cumulative amount you may give away throughout your lifetime without incurring gift taxes. This IRS provision is especially useful for those who wish to transfer substantial wealth. In 2023, the limit is $12.92 million; in 2024, adjusted for inflation, the limit will be $13.61 million.
Using the lifetime exemption includes gifting assets expected to appreciate, like stocks or real property. By gifting these assets earlier, any future appreciations occur outside of your own estate, maximizing the impact of the exemption.
You can enhance this strategy by combining the lifetime exemption with the annual gift tax exclusion. For example, parents might gift their children a portion of their estate annually, staying within the annual exclusion limit, and then use their lifetime exemption for larger gifts.
Medical and educational exclusions allow you to pay for another person’s tuition or medical expenses. The payments must be made directly to the institution and not the individual. Following this important rule allows you to avoid incurring any gift tax or having the amount impact the annual exclusion limit of lifetime exemptions. These payments can only cover tuition and direct medical expenses, not related costs like books or room and board.
Trusts can be used for gifting, allowing you to manage and distribute assets according to your own terms. Your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you to what best suits your situation. For instance, an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust shelters life insurance proceeds from estate taxes, effectively reducing the taxable estate size. A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust can transfer appreciating assets to beneficiaries, while providing the grantor a fixed annuity, potentially reducing gift taxes.
There is also the Charitable Remainder Trust, which provides income to the donor and later benefits a charity, resulting in income and estate tax advantages.
Charitable giving has long been a favored way to do good while obtaining valuable tax benefits. One approach is to use donor-advised funds, which allow for a charitable contribution, getting an immediate tax deduction, and then recommending grants from the fund over time. Making pledges or binding promises to give to charities can also create current tax deductions while committing to the future of your charity of choice.
Timing gifts and their frequency can have implications for the donor and recipient. Strategic timing needs to address asset value fluctuations and tax law changes. Timing involves market conditions, life events, or anticipated changes in legislation.
The frequency of gifting can also be critical in estate planning. Regular, systematic gifting can steadily reduce the size of the estate, potentially leading to significant tax reductions over time. Be mindful about balancing gifting with personal financial needs to not overextend yourself.
Reference: Forbes (Nov. 25, 2023) “6 Effective Gifting Strategies To Minimize Your Estate Taxes”