In 2017, the estate tax exemption will be $5.49 million up from $5.45 million for 2016. ¬†That’s another $40,000 that can be passed on tax-free. The top federal tax rate is 40%. The very high amounts between spouses, makes the creation of by pass trust arguably less essential than it once was. Yet generous estate tax laws not withstanding, everyone needs to mind basic estate-planning matters, including properly drafted beneficiary designations, guardianship for minor children, and powers of attorney for financial and health care matters.


The annual gift tax exclusion remains the same in 2017 as it was in 2016.  This means you can gift $14,000 a piece to an unlimited number of people without filling out gift tax paperwork.


Also if you are gifting to pay educational or medical expenses, you can circumvent the gift tax system altogether by making payments directly to the educational or medical institution.