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Reasons to Make Gifts During Your Lifetime

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It’s the end of the year and many of us are thinking about making gifts to people we care about. Many of us are also thinking about creating or changing our estate plans. It might be in your best interest to make sizeable gifts during your lifetime to the intended beneficiaries of your estate.

Federal Estate Tax

Some states have a state estate tax that is applied to estates over a certain amount. There is no estate tax in the State of Arizona, but the federal estate tax still applies.

For deaths in 2023, the federal estate tax exemption is currently $12.92 million per person. That means you can die with $12.92 million in total assets and your estate will not be taxed. If you are a married couple, your combined estate can equal twice that amount without being taxed.

The federal estate tax exemption was $5 million per person in 2017. The federal estate tax exemption is set to revert to the 2017 amount as adjusted for inflation in 2026. Congress can still change this prior to 2026.

It is important that you share accurate information regarding your assets with your estate planning attorney so they can make recommendations based on the federal estate tax exemption. You should stay aware of changes that might give you a taxable estate, even if you are unlikely to have a taxable estate at the time of creating your estate plan. Your estate could become taxable by the growth of your estate or shrinking of the estate tax exemption.


One way to avoid having a taxable estate is to make gifts during your lifetime. You may give $17,000 per year per person without having to file a federal gift tax return. There may $17,000 per year to each of your intended beneficiaries if your estate is near the federal estate tax exemption. You can still gift more than $17,000 and may not incur any gift tax liability. But you will need to file a federal gift tax return.

Of course, there are reasons to make a gifts during your lifetime other than estate planning reasons. Making a lifetime gift would allow you to actually see your beneficiary enjoy their gift. How much satisfaction you gain from lifetime gifting will depend on you and your relationship with your intended beneficiary.

Gifts to minors can also be made to a §529 Plan College Education Fund. Future income from §529 Plans is tax free as long as withdrawals are used for education. Gifts to disabled individuals can be made to a §529(A) ABLE Act account. The current annual limit for deposits to an ABLE Act account is $17,000 from all sources combined.

The IRS announced that the annual gift tax exclusion amount of $17,000 will increase to $18,000 in 2024 due to inflation. However, the IRS also noted that the gift tax exclusion amount is scheduled to revert to the pre-2018 amount of $14,000 in 2025. You should stay aware of future changes to the annual gift tax exclusion amount.


If your estate could reach the federal estate tax exemption amount, you may consider making a gifts to your intended beneficiaries during your lifetime. Your estate may benefit from making lifetime gifts to your intended beneficiaries, and you may experience some personal satisfaction, as well.

For more on making end of year gifts, check out our 2020 podcast episode on the same topic.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.