One of the oldest tricks in the American tax book is seeing new life because of recent changes to the tax code. The process is referred to as upstream tax planning. Changes to the tax code mean that investors can take assets that have seen capital gains and transfer them to a trusted older relative with the understanding that they will be bequeathed. When that asset is re-inherited by the original donor it now has a new basis and can be sold into the market immediately with no taxes due despite the initial capital gains. One estate planner summarizes the changes, saying “People didn’t want to use up their estate tax exemption, but the whole paradigm has shifted because of this new high exemption amount … When they doubled the exemption, everyone thought they’d do away with the step-up in basis at death, but that didn’t happen. So this creates a huge opportunity for taxpayers”.
FINSUM: This is a very good loophole, but it does have a trust component where the donor needs to be confident the beneficiary will hold onto the asset!