Whether assets are inherited at death or given away while you are still alive, the federal estate tax exemption is essentially the same, currently $5,340,000 per person. But the effect of capital gains tax may be the deciding factor.
The Bacon Wilson firm explained:
However, before making gifts, attention should be paid to the tax basis, or what is known as the cost basis of the asset. Once the asset is gifted, the donee (recipient) receives the asset at the donor’s tax basis. For instance, if a person bought IBM stock at $10 a share and it is now at $70 a share, if the stock is gifted, the donee receives the basis of $10 a share, which means that when they sell it, they will pay the capital gains tax on $60.00. However, if the donor died with the stock and left it by will or trust to the donee, then the donee receives it at the date of death value so that when it is sold, there is nominal tax basis if any at all. However, the stock is also included in the estate of the donor, so that if this person had total assets greater than $5,340,000, there would be an estate tax also.
The entire article from their Estate Planning Bits Blog is here.