For the first time in more than a decade, Congress has enacted a permanent set of estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax rules. While Congress can always change the law, there is no automatic "sunset" or change built into the current law. 

In a nutshell, the new transfer tax law provides: 

  • $5 million exemption for gift, estate and generation-skipping tax, adjusted for inflation after 2011. The 2013 exemption amount is $5,250,000.
  • Exemption is applied both to lifetime gifts and to transfers at death, and also applies for generation-skipping transfers.
  • Marginal tax rate on transfers above the exemption amount is 40%.
  • Portability is made permanent. This allows a surviving spouse to use the “unused” gift and estate tax exemption (but not generation-skipping tax exemption) of the first spouse to die for the survivor’s lifetime gifts and transfers at death, with certain restrictions.
  • Several helpful generation-skipping tax technical provisions were made permanent.

Other items to consider:

  • The gift tax annual exclusion for 2013 is $14,000, up from $13,000, and is increased to $143,000 for gifts to a non-U.S. citizen spouse.
  • Direct payment of tuition and medical expenses remains gift-tax free in unlimited amounts.
  • The new, higher income tax rates also apply to trusts, which will focus increased attention on income tax planning for trusts.

For further information, please contact Lauren Liebes (213-617-5444,