The federal government imposes a substantial tax on gifts of money or property above certain levels. Without such a tax someone with a sizable estate could give away a large portion of their property before death and escape death taxes altogether. For this reason, the gift tax acts more or less as a backstop to the estate tax. And yet, few people actually pay a gift tax during their lifetime. A gift program can substantially reduce overall transfer taxes; however, it requires good planning and a commitment to proceed with the gifts.
A will is a legal document that transfers what you own to your beneficiaries upon your death. It also names an executor to carry out the terms of your will and a guardian for your minor children, if you have any.
Your signature and those of two witnesses make your will authentic. Witnesses don't have to know what the will says, but they must watch you sign it and you must watch them witness it.
A revocable living trust provides financial protection in the event you are no longer able to manage your financial affairs yourself. You can be trustee while you are healthy, but if you have a stroke or become otherwise incapacitated, your successor trustee would manage your assets in the trust.