Marital Deduction

For purposes of the federal transfer tax, you can during your lifetime, or at death give an unlimited amount of wealth to your spouse tax-free. This can be a great advantage, but may not be the panacea that it is often described as. The reason: although you can transfer any amount that you want to your spouse, if your spouse survives you (and does not remarry), there will not be a marital deduction available to lessen the estate tax liability at his or her later death. For this reason, it's often a good idea not to give everything to the spouse outright, but to use a credit shelter bequest.