You may give up to $14,000 per individual in 2017 without dipping into your lifetime gift-tax exclusion (which is currently $5.49 million).
That amount doubles if you and your spouse give together. You may also boost gifts by giving to your child (or grandchild) and his or her spouse — for a maximum of a $56,000 gift this year from a couple to a couple.
Although bestowing a large check on Christmas morning might feel festive, you risk botching your strategy if you wait until the last minute, said Jody King, vice president and director of client services at Fiduciary Trust Company.
"Handing your children checks doesn't quite do it," said King. "You need to make sure they actually cash the checks, and technically they need to clear the bank before the end of the year."