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Making Gifts: One Potentially Fun Part of Estate Planning

A large part of estate planning is about minimizing taxes and protecting the assets you hope to leave to your family and friends. While many of us tend to think about doing this through wills, trusts, and other legal documents, one way in which you might be able to accomplish some of your goals is through gifting.

Since New Jersey doesn't impose a gift tax in most circumstances, this might be one way in which you can pass money on to the ones you care about while also getting the opportunity to see them enjoy it. Of course, effective gifting isn't quite that simple. There are federal taxes and limits to consider, but with careful planning, you can minimize the effect of these limitations.

In addition to the simple pleasure of passing money or assets on to those you care about, gifting can also provide you with a method of reducing the value of your estate if need be to avoid being caught by the estate tax when you pass away.

Here are a few additional items to keep in mind. There is a federal gift tax, but you don't pay it until you have reached a lifetime total of $1 million in gifts. After the million-dollar limit is reached, a federal gift tax, currently as high as 35%, might apply to the value of the gift.

However, as you might imagine with any tax-related issue, there are loopholes and complications. You can actually make gifts that don't count toward your lifetime limit of $1 million if you make small, individual gifts of $13,000 or less each year. Larger gifts will require a certain form be submitted to the IRS, which will use that information to determine when you have reached your million-dollar limit.

If you don't currently have an estate plan, or if you have questions about making gifts, you should seek out legal advice from an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Source: Bank Investment Consultant, Year-End Estate Planning Tips, Ed Morrow 12/1/10

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