With the estate tax uncertain and changing over the next 3 years, you should try to avoid the estate tax regime altogether by making tax-free transfers out of your estate. One of the ways to do this is to start a gifting program (remember, I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a u-haul trailer!).
Taxpayers are allowed an annual exclusion from the gift tax of up to $13,000 for 2009. Spouses can combine their exclusion amounts, allowing a married couple in 2009 to give gifts of up to $26,000 per donee tax free. Gifts in excess of the annual exclusion amount may be offset by a taxpayer’s lifetime gift tax exemption.
The key to remember here is to “start” a gifting program. Most wealthy people I deal with start this process way too late and as a result, leave monies in their estate thus exposing it unnecessary state and federal taxation.