Estate planning in Texas and all other states includes determining how much you can give away in gifts at your death and how much you can gift during life without incurring federal tax consequences. For estate planning purposes, the federal estate tax now exempts $5.43 million in bequests that a person can give to others upon his or her death. For a married couple, it is the total of each spouse's $5.43 million that is ultimately available. One spouse can bequest his or her unused portion of the exemption to the surviving spouse.
If having your assets pass to your beneficiaries in a smooth and inexpensive procedure is important to you, then estate planning should be conducted now while you are healthy and fully competent to sign the documents. In some cases, probate can be avoided by estate planning that sets up living trusts. The owner turns over and transfers title of designated assets to the living trust, to be administered by the trustee. In Texas and other states, living trusts become the recipients of some or all your assets during your own lifetime.