The current federal estate tax exemption ($11.58 million in 2020) means that many people aren’t concerned with estate tax. But they should still plan to save income taxes. For example, be careful making lifetime transfers of appreciated assets. It’s true that the assets and future appreciation generated by them are removed from your estate. But the gift carries a potential income tax cost because the recipient receives your basis upon transfer. He or she could face capital gains tax on the sale of the gifted property in the future. If the appreciated property is held until death, under current law, the heir will get a “step-up” in basis that will reduce or wipe out the capital gains tax.
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