Tips for “Use It or Lose It” Planning and Other Gifts

Last week’s Family Legacy Planning email created quite a stir by promoting a “Now & Later” approach to inheritance—give some now while you’re alive and the rest later at your death. Many are seeking tips on how to make lifetime gifts in the most tax efficient way. Consider these ideas:

  • Make $15,000 annual gifts to as many people as you wish.
  • In addition, pay tuition and medical payments (including health insurance premiums) for loved ones. Payments must be paid directly to the provider.
  • For larger gifts, make a gift of your $11.7 million lifetime exemption. Under pending legislation, this exemption cuts in half on January 1, 2022—“use it or lose it.” Even if the new law doesn’t pass, the exemption automatically sunsets in half on January 1, 2026, just 4 years from now.
  • If you gave away your full exemption in 2020, be sure to make a 2021 gift of the additional $120,000 inflation adjustment we received in 2021 ($240,000 for a married couple).
  • In order to capture the full extra exemption before it cuts in half, you have to make a gift of the full $11.7 million. The $11.7 million consists of an old half and a new half. A gift of only half first eats up the old half of the exemption, so when the new half sunsets, you’ll be left with zero exemption.
  • Married couples often make these $11.7 million gifts to SLATs (Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts) in order to retain access to the funds.
  • If a couple only wants to give $11.7 million and not $23.4 million, make the gift entirely from one spouse to a DGT (Defective Grantor Trust) for the kids. If the $11.7 million gift comes 50/50 from the spouses, you’ll have no exemption left after sunset. Giving the gift entirely from one spouse saves $5.85 million of the other spouse’s exemption.
  • To best protect your loved ones, we recommend you create trusts to receive the gifts, protecting the gifts from creditors, divorce, and taxes at death.

If the new law passes, the deadline for “use it or lose it” planning is December 31, 2021. But, if you supercharge the gift using a “squeeze & freeze” technique, or if you add the gift to an existing DGT or SLAT, the deadline is earlier—it’s the “date of enactment” of new legislation, which could be very soon. Time is of the essence.

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin Blum lecturing on “last chance” tax planning.