Retirement is the perfect time to plan your legacy. Among the most important decisions are how and when to pass your assets to your loved ones. Should you gift during your lifetime or make bequests after death? This post will guide you through both strategies’ benefits and potential drawbacks, helping you make an informed decision.
Gifting During Life: An Active Approach to Legacy Planning
Giving during life involves transferring assets while you’re alive. It’s a proactive approach that can bring joy to both the giver and receiver. But beyond the emotional rewards, it also comes with significant financial advantages.
Advantages of Lifelong Gifting
Reducing Estate Tax: By gifting assets during your lifetime, you can reduce your taxable estate. The IRS allows a lifetime gift tax exemption and an annual gift tax exclusion. Giving within these limits can be a tax-efficient strategy to pass your wealth.
Sharing Joy: Lifelong gifting lets you witness your loved ones enjoy their gifts. It can be incredibly satisfying to see the tangible benefits of your generosity.
Disadvantages of Lifelong Gifting
Loss of Control: Once you gift an asset, you generally lose control over it. This might not be ideal, especially if the recipient is not financially savvy.
Bequests: A Posthumous Method of Asset Transfer
Bequests are the assets you leave to your heirs in your will. Unlike gifting, bequests offer a level of control even after death.
Advantages of Bequests
Control: You retain control of your assets until your death, allowing you to use them as needed during your lifetime.
Conditional Distribution: Bequests can be made conditional. For instance, you can stipulate that an heir will only receive their legacy once they reach a certain age or meet a particular condition, like college graduation.
Disadvantages of Bequests
Estate Tax: Larger estates might be subject to significant estate taxes, reducing the amount that ultimately goes to your heirs.
Potential Family Conflicts: Bequests can sometimes lead to disputes among heirs, especially if the will’s terms are perceived as unfair.
Balancing Gifting and Bequests: A Hybrid Approach
For most retirees, a combination of gifting during life and legacies might be the most advantageous. This hybrid approach allows for tax efficiency, enjoyment of giving, and maintenance of control.
The Bottom Line
Choosing between gifting during life and making bequests is a personal decision that depends on your circumstances, values, and estate size. Engaging with a financial advisor or estate planning professional can provide personalized advice tailored to your situation. Ultimately, the goal is to leave a legacy that reflects your wishes and benefits your loved ones. Planning ensures you can achieve this goal in the most effective way possible.