It’s that time of year…tax season. When most of us think of tax season, we think of our individual and business tax returns since these are the most common tax forms.

Most of us do not think of the tax obligations relating to estates and lifetime gifts—but many of us should.
In 2024, the estate tax exemption per person is $13.61 million (or over $27 million for a married couple). This means an individual person can have $13.61 million in assets upon death without paying estate taxes.

Many of our clients are surviving widows or widowers who had trusts drafted when the estate tax exemption was significantly lower. For instance, the exemption was only $675,000 in 2001. As a result, many estate planning attorneys commonly drafted “A-B” Trusts for clients. When the first spouse passed away, the trust became split into two components—the Survivor’s Trust and the Decedent’s Trust. There may have then been a tax filing requirement for the Decedent’s Trust, depending on the circumstances.

Gift tax is related to estate tax and applies when a living person gifts cash or assets. In 2024, you can give away $18,000 to as many people as you would like without needing to file a gift tax return. If you gift over the $18,000 exclusion amount, then this additional amount will go toward your estate tax exemption of $13.61 million, and a gift tax return must be filed. As a result, estate tax and gift tax are considered a unified credit since you can either give away the exemption amount during life or after death.

You should speak with a tax advisor if you are considering making monetary gifts over $18,000. Similarly, you should speak with an estate planning attorney if you had your trust drafted over ten years ago to ensure the trust format still makes sense with a higher estate tax exemption.

For more information, please contact our office at (626) 858-9378,, or