A Note About Gifts

Most people are familiar with the works of William Shakespeare.  One of his lesser-known writings is surprisingly found in his will.  In it, Shakespeare left to his wife his “second best bed.” Many have written over what this gift means about the relationship he had with his wife.  From an estate planning perspective, what it means is this: there is no right or wrong way to make gifts in your will.  Those items are yours and you are free to leave them as you wish.

Compare that to the will and estate plan of James Gandolfini, who passed away more recently.  When his will was made public, it contained more ordinary provisions (no talk of second-best bequests), but the distributions left his estate subject to estate tax, which added up to what was reported at approximately $30 million owed to the IRS. While he was free to leave the gifts as he chose, he could have done so in a way that did not result in a large tax due.

Taking these two public figures’ estates into account, the message is now: there is no right or wrong way to make gifts in your will, but do take into consideration the tax consequences your estate will face.  You may intend to leave your second best bed to someone, but you most likely do not intend to leave a gift to the IRS.  With proper estate planning, you can achieve both of these goals. 

This blog is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be and should not be relied upon as legal advice.


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