Doing what you can to provide for your loved ones after you pass away is what estate planning is all about, but the manner in which you do so can make a great deal of difference in their lives. Most people who have been successful enough to be able to leave significant inheritances to their loved ones are well aware of the value of education, and they would like to see succeeding generations of their family continue that legacy of success. As a result many people include incentives toward education as a part of their long-term plans for their families, and one way that this can be achieved is through the giving of tax-free educational gifts.
Educational gifts can be a win-win situation that provide benefits on multiple levels. From a tax perspective you can pay the tuition of any number of students equaling an unlimited amount of money free of the gift tax without reducing your lifetime unified estate/gift tax exclusion. So you are essentially giving a loved one part of his or her inheritance in the form of a free education while reducing the overall value of your estate for estate tax purposes in the process.
There is a catch in that you may only pay for the tuition of students as a tax-free gift; the exemption does not include books, fees and living expenses. However there is also a $13,000 per person annual exemption that can be utilized, and these gifts do not reduce the lifetime unified exemption that is available to you. So if you are married, you and your spouse can give as much is $26,000 to your chosen students each year to cover their expenses.
Giving someone an inheritance is a kind and generous act that can help this person a great deal. But giving this same individual the opportunity to make his or her own mark in the world while you are alive to see it is perhaps the greatest gift of all.