Gift and Estate Planning Coupons May Worth Less After This Election

When you give money or property to someone while you’re alive, you make a gift. If that gift is beyond a certain size, you will also have to pay a gift tax on it. When die, your money or property will go to those whom you name as your beneficiaries in your will or trust. But yet again, if your estate is beyond a certain size, your estate will have to pay a tax on it, this time an estate tax.

clinton-trumpNow Uncle Sam has, of late, been pretty generous**. He’s given each of us coupons* to pay that tax–up to a certain amount. Currently, each of us has a lifetime coupon worth $5,450,000; that is, each of us can give away (or devise or bequeath upon our death) $5,450,000 without having to pay any gift or estate tax. And if we’re married, we can combine these “applicable exclusion amounts” so that as a couple we can give away twice that amount, or $10,900,00 without any gift or estate tax being assessed.

It gets better. In addition to the amounts I just mentioned, each of us can make annual gifts of $14,000–an annual coupon, if you will–to as many people as we want, family, non family, friends, and enemies. Every year! And if we’re married, we can combine our gifts. That’s $28,000. Gift tax free.

And if you finally do have to pay an estate or gift tax? The top rate is 40%.

All that was to tell you this: If Hillary Clinton is elected, she’s promised to reduce the applicable exclusion amount–the large lifetime coupon–to just $3,500,00 for an individual, $7,000,000 for a married couple. That’s almost a $4 million drop from present levels. I’m unsure at this time if she had any plans to reduce the annual gift coupon.

Donald Trump wants to repeal the estate tax.

FWIW, this is not a political post, or at least I don’t intend it to be. Just the facts. And that’s that.

*In addition to the two “coupons” discussed in this post, there’s a third, the unlimited marital deduction, which allows spouses to pass property between one another without tax consequences. Ultimately, the last to die may have an estate tax bill to pay.

**Generous is being generous. We’re talking about money that is not Uncle Sam’s to begin with, but humor me here.

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