Published Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at: 7:00 AM EDT
If you're like most well-to-do people, one of your main financial objectives is to transfer wealth to your heirs with a minimum of tax erosion. Several estate planning techniques could help you move closer to that elusive goal. Consider these five opportunities:
1. Lifetime gifts. One of the simplest wealth transfer methods also can be one of the most effective. By giving away property to other family members during your lifetime, you remove those assets from your taxable estate. If you plan carefully, you can make direct gifts without incurring any gift tax liability. And you also may be able to leave assets to your heirs under favorable tax conditions.
The primary tax breaks are: An annual gift tax exclusion covering transfers of up to $14,000 per year per recipient ($28,000 for gifts by a married couple). You can make these gifts to as many people as you like. In addition, everyone is entitled to transfer a total of $5.49 million in 2017 (the amount is indexed to inflation) in lifetime gifts and bequests without tax consequences. Inherited property benefits from a "step-up" in basis—the value of the assets, for calculating taxable investment gains, is what they're worth at the death of the person who made the bequest, rather than when he or she acquired them. That can reduce future taxes. (But note that lifetime gifts don't get a step-up.)
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