Estate and Gift Tax FAQ

Are there ways to avoid federal estate taxes?

Yes. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Tax-free gifts. You can give up to $14,000 per calendar year (in 2014-2017) per recipient without paying gift tax. You can also pay someone's tuition or medical bills, or give to a charity, without paying gift tax on the amount. This reduces the size of your estate and the eventual estate tax bill.
  • An AB trust, where spouses leave their property in trust for their children, but give the surviving spouse the right to use it for life. This keeps the second spouse's taxable estate half the size it would be if the property were left entirely to the surviving spouse. However, with the $5.49 million personal exemption (for deaths in 2017) and "portability" for spouses, AB trusts are unnecessary for most couples. See Nolo's article Tax-Saving AB (Bypass) Trusts¬†for more on this type of trust.
  • A "QTIP" trust, which enables couples to postpone estate taxes until the second spouse dies. However, with the current very high personal exemption and "portability" of exemptions for spouses, this type of trust is also often unnecessary.
  • Charitable trusts, which involve making a sizable gift to a tax-exempt charity.
  • Life insurance trusts, which let you take the value of life insurance proceeds out of your estate.

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