In estate planning, you also must consider the unified credit. It gets its name because the federal gift tax and estate tax are integrated into one unified tax system.
This is the credit for the portion of estate tax due on taxable estates. For example, if you exceed the annual gift tax exclusion amount in any year, you can either pay the tax on the excess or take advantage of the unified credit to avoid paying the tax. The unified credit enables you to give away $5 million during your lifetime without having to pay gift tax.
By using the unified credit during your life, you'll reduce the amount available to offset the estate tax upon your death. If, however, you pay the gift tax, such taxed gifts are added back to your estate, and the estate tax is recalculated, with the gift taxes you previously paid credited against any final estate tax due.