Much of estate planning means planning for where and to whom assets are to pass after you are gone (i.e., on the other side of the grass). On the other hand, some people want to see their plans take effect and their loved ones enjoy their generosity right now (i.e., while they are on this side of the grass).
A recent article in Forbes titled “Best Ways To Give Your Heirs Money While You're Alive” explored this subject.
The short answer is “giving” while you are "living," so you are knowing where it is going. However, there are certain limitations to giving, largely because of a screen of taxation. And you want your gifts to pass through the gift tax screen. At the most basic level, that means giving less than the annual exclusion (i.e., currently $14,000 per done). In addition, you may want to consider leveraging your lifetime gift/estate tax exemption to its greatest effect (i.e., currently $5.25 per spouse).
To make already complicated matters a bit more complicated, remember there also are taxes based on to whom you are giving. For example, there is the generation-skipping transfer tax (e.g., giving directly to grandchildren) and, with certain assets, the kiddie tax.
To be sure, lifetime wealth transfers can be a great benefit to those on either end – the givers and the receivers.
Remember: When making your financial, tax and estate plans, don't go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
Reference: Forbes (June 18, 2013) “Best Ways To Give Your Heirs Money While You're Alive”