The current federal gift tax laws allow an individual to give up to $13,000.00 a year in cash or assets tax free to as many people as s/he chooses. Any time a person gives more than $13,000.00 a year he must file a gift tax return for the amount over $13,000.00. So if someone gives $15,000.00 to one person, a gift tax return should be filed for $2,000.00. That $2,000.00 is included in the lifetime gift exemption.
The current lifetime gift tax exemption is 1.2 million dollars. An individual can give up to that amount over a lifetime without paying federal gift taxes. The federal gift tax exemption includes gifts made to individuals in an estate plan or will. One important exception to the gift tax exemption is gifts made to a recognized charity do not count toward the gift tax exemption.