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Thanks all for the advice.

A bit more on my situation, retirement is still several years away and the total amount at retirement will be closer to $2 M if things continue to go well.

The $ 10 M is 1) thrown out as an amount that someone with a modest standard of living can never deplete and 2) represents a windfall, such as a lottery winning. It is something to dream about.

The $5.5 M number represents the dollar amount where estate planning becomes important after the unified credit drops back to $ 1M in 2010. I suspect the final amount will be higher than $1 M but not as high as that in 2009, I believe about $ 3M.

So sorry Fuskie, we'll not be sending your $ 12, 24 or 48 k annual gift.

The advice on using a fee only planner is good and I plan on doing so.

The second to die term insurance can be an effective way to pay estate taxes according to what I have read (and I do not have my book here for reference). It is a good deal for insurance companies so they lobby for it. The Feds still get their estate tax.

The purpose of the bypass trust is two fold. First, it can be used to fully utilize my or my wife's unified credit and secondly it fixes the taxable amount at the time the trust is set up or when I die, not sure which. As I understand they way it works (and I have not seen an estate planner) I leave say $ 1M in Colgate stock to my daughter in the bypass trust. My wife has use of the income during her lifetime and is some cases use of the principle. At my wife's death the residual passes to my daughter. If the trust has grown to $ 2M the basis for estate tax is still $ 1M, the growth of $1 M is tax free. Yes, this sounds too good to be true.

As someone posted, " the IRS givith and the IRS takith away", so trusts and second to die term insurance programs can vanish overnight.
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