Now that the long-debated estate tax rules have finally been settled, let's get real: Despite all the hoopla raised, most people probably would never be impacted whether the lifetime estate tax threshold had stayed at $5.12 million or reverted to $1 million. In the end, it actually went up a bit to $5.25 million for 2013.
Even if your estate will only be a fraction of that amount, it still pays to have a plan for distributing your assets. If your finances are in good shape, there's no reason not to start sharing the wealth while you're still around to enjoy helping others. It also doesn't hurt that you can reap significant tax advantages by distributing a portion of your assets now.
Before you start doling out cash, however, make sure you are on track to fund your own retirement, have adequate health insurance, can pay off your mortgage and are otherwise debt-free. You wouldn't want to deplete your resources and then become a financial burden on others.
If you can check all those boxes, consider these options: