Any small child would be thrilled to get a crisp $20 bill for the holidays. But at this time of year, many parents and grandparents have something bigger in mind: a sum big enough to make a real difference to a child or adult, perhaps for a life-changing purpose, like college or a home down payment.
And in some cases the giver is trying to benefit as well, by avoiding taxes on a block of stock, for instance, or by reducing a future estate-tax bill.
But when serious money is involved, the giver needs to burrow into the tax laws to be sure the gift won't trigger a tax bill that could be avoided. And there are issues of control if you worry the recipient might misuse your gift.