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Not since enactment of the first federal gift tax in 1924 had there been such a strong incentive as there was in 2012 to give property to one’s heirs during one’s lifetime, and to do it right away. Part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" was the prospect that the lifetime exemption for passing property tax-free to one’s children and grandchildren would go from $5.12 million per person in 2012 to $1 million per person in 2013. The automatic expiration built into the Bush-era tax reductions would have returned the lifetime exemption to that amount, and President Obama’s position was that the exemption applicable to decedents’ estates could be larger, but that $1 million should be reinstated as the limit on tax-free gifts during a lifetime.

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