Trusts, which can range from simple to extremely complex, are a standard tool in the anti-estate- tax arsenal.

There is just one firm rule: If the trust benefits a spouse, “you must cause the trust to be included in the second spouse’s estate, for estate- tax purposes,” says Samuel Donaldson, a professor of law at Georgia State University. “There may be a lot of gain inside the trust. Because it’s subject to estate tax, it gets the step-up in basis. If it’s not included in the second spouse’s estate, the assets would have the same basis as at the first spouse’s death.”

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