A couple of years ago a legislative measure was passed that has subsequently been named the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. This legislation re-unified gift/estate tax exclusions.
In 2011 the amount of the unified gift and estate tax exclusion was $5 million. This year the exclusion has risen to $5.12 million to account for inflation.
Throughout both 2011 and 2012 the maximum rate of the gift tax, the estate tax, and the generation-skipping transfer tax has been 35%.
As a result of the above, people who have resources that do not exceed $5.12 million have been more or less immune from taxes on such transfers to their loved ones.
However, things are changing in the very near future.
This tax relief act is going to expire at the end of 2012. If this expiration takes place without any new legislation being enacted the exclusion will go down to $1 million while the top rate rises to 55%.
Those who have resources in excess of $1 million may want to consider giving gifts during the 2012 calendar year. There is, of course, a very limited window of opportunity left because the end of the year is rapidly approaching.
The act of funding certain types of trusts such as dynasty trusts could be taxable under gift tax regulations. Aside from giving direct gifts, however, there are methods that could allow you to take advantage of this larger exclusion to fund an irrevocable trust for the benefit of loved ones. These methods may allow for discounting, so an even greater amount may qualify for the exclusion.
Giving shares in a family limited partnership or family limited liability company may also be a possibility.
These methods are relatively sophisticated, so if you are serious about wealth preservation you would do well to discuss this temporary opportunity with a qualified Reno estate planning lawyer as soon as possible.