For more than a decade, a common estate planning approach has been to bequeath a couple's assets up to the amount of the federal or state estate-tax exemption to a bypass trust after the first spouse dies, leaving the remaining assets outright to the surviving spouse (or to some form of a marital trust). Later, upon the death of the surviving spouse, assets within the bypass trust would go directly to the children, bypassing the surviving spouse's estate and thereby saving estate taxes.

But new rules have changed many aspects of trust planning. The details governing bypass trusts have become more complex in the wake of this year's tax law changes. At the same time, these trusts may offer the chance of even greater overall tax savings.

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