Gifts are money and property that you give to an individual or charity. Gifting can help reduce the size of your estate and minimize your estate taxes. You can give anyone you choose a tax-free gift of cash or property worth up to $13,000 (for 2011, as indexed for inflation). If you and your spouse use gift splitting, the tax-free amount may be increased to $26,000 (for 2011, as indexed for inflation). In addition to annual exclusion gifts, an individual may be able to gift their lifetime gift exemption amount of $1 million; $2 million if gift splitting is used.

There are different ways to make gifts. Gifts may be given outright to individuals or in a trust. You can establish custodial accounts for your children through The Uniform Gifts to Minors Act or The Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. Another type is the qualified transfer, which can be used for making special gifts such as paying for someone's education or medical bills. A qualified domestic trust also may be used when you are giving to a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen.

Making gifts may be a consideration at any time, whether you're developing a financial plan or reconsidering the one you have. Gifting is especially important in the estate planning process.