There is more than one way to give your estate to your family. A will or a trust are both options for passing your estate to your friends or family after death. You can, however, give your estate during life without tax consequences.
There is an annual tax exclusion that encompasses $13,000 per recipient. This means that you can gift $13,000 to an individual before that person has to report the gift on their taxes. In this way, your gift recipients can avoid the gift tax. For a gift to be included in this exclusion must be a completed gift, in that the gift must be given that year. A promise to give a gift of $13,000 in the future is not valid. A gift in a trust document would not be a completed gift because the gift has not been given yet.
Tis the season! If you are interseted in gifting part of your estate to your family now, and in a way that can bypass the gift tax, give gifts of less than $13,000.