Transfer taxes on non-charitable gifts during your lifetime and through your estate can be significant. Virtually everything you own or control may be subject to federal estate, gift and generation–skipping taxes, as well as state inheritance taxes all of which can substantially reduce what you pass on to your heirs.
Not everyone is subject to federal estate tax. If the value of your taxable estate is less than the federal estate tax exemption at the time of your death, it will not be taxed by the federal government. But for estates valued over that amount, creative estate planning can avoid or minimize tax liabilities. Keep in mind that many states still have an estate or inheritance tax that will start to tax your estate or distributions to non-charitable heirs.