Individual estates under $5.45 million are exempt from Federal Estate tax in 2016, and through some well-known legal maneuvers married couples can exempt double that amount--$10.9 million. In the Bay Area there are many estates with assets above the exemption, and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has published a useful list of some Advanced Wealth Transfer Strategies:
In most structures there's some or complete loss of control over the assets---loss of control is a major criterion for not being included in an estate--but often the income from those assets can remain with the donor during his or her lifetime.
Grantor retained annuity trusts. Life insurance, especially combined with other structures. Qualified personal residence trusts. Charitable lead annuity trusts. Intra-family loans. Private annuities.
None of these strategies is relevant to your humble observer/taxpayer (yet), but I can dream, can't I?