Close Menu

Gift vs Loan vs Advancement: Why the Classification Matters

gift vs loan vs advance: what's the difference?

While we all want to provide financial help to our loved ones—whether they are family or close friends—it is important to understand that how the money is classified will directly affect your estate planning. Accordingly, the intent behind the transfer of the money is key when determining if it will be considered a gift vs loan vs advancement.

Understanding the Differences: Gift vs Loan vs Advancement


If there is a mutual understanding that the money you gave to a loved one is to be paid back, this is considered a loan—whether the so-called loan was documented or not. If the money lent is not paid back before you pass away, the sum is still owed to your estate by the borrower. The loan becomes an asset of the estate. For this reason, it is key to ensure the proper documentation is drawn up so that both parties—the lender and the borrower—are aware that the transfer is a loan and will remain an outstanding obligation until it is paid in full.

Because there is a debt that is owed to you, there are a couple of ways you can handle it in your estate plan. First, you could decide that you will forgive the debt if it is still outstanding when you die. In order to do this, there needs to be specific language in your will or trust. Also, depending upon the amount to be forgiven, you may want to consult with your accountant or CPA to make sure that this will not bring about any undesirable consequences for either party. Alternatively, if you die while the debt is still outstanding, and the borrower is set to receive an inheritance from you, an arrangement can be made that his or her inheritance will be reduced by the amount of the loan. This will decrease the amount that the borrower will owe, and, depending upon the amount of the inheritance, may eliminate the debt.

In sum, if you are not expecting the loan to be paid back, the transfer of funds could be classified as a gift or an advancement depending upon what impact you would like the transfer to have on the individual’s inheritance.


It goes without saying that the main difference between a gift vs loan is based upon expectations for repayment. If you transfer money to a loved one without the expectation of being paid back, and without any additional considerations made with respect to your estate planning, it is deemed to be a gift. It is important to note, if the gift is for an amount over the annual exclusion, which is $15,000.00 in 2019, a gift tax return will need to be prepared and filed with the Internal Revenue Service. When deciding to make a gift to a loved one, it is important to consider what impact you would like it to have on your estate planning. If your estate planning goal is to make the same gifts to all of your beneficiaries, making a gift to one of them during your lifetime will upset this balance because this one individual may ultimately receive more than the other beneficiaries.


If you would like to give money to a beneficiary during your lifetime but you do not want it to disrupt the distribution scheme contained in your estate plan, you can consider the giving of the money to be an advancement. If the money transfer is classified as an advancement, then the person would in effect be receiving a portion of his or her inheritance ahead of time. In such a scenario, the beneficiary’s share of the estate will be reduced by the amount of the advancement when you pass away. In order for this to be properly carried out, however, there are particular provisions that must be contained in your estate planning documents. Additionally, accurate records must be kept regarding the transfer of funds, particularly if multiple advancements are made.

Estate Planning Help

If you are thinking about transferring money to a family member or friend, it is important to understand the differences and consequences of a gift vs loan vs advancement. Give Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County estate planning, special-needs planning, veterans pension planning and Medicaid planning attorney at (443) 741-1088, to schedule a consultation so we can discuss how the transfer can, or will, affect your estate planning goals.



Request a Consultation

For help with estate planning, special needs planning or elder law throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

McDonald Law Firm, LLC

Columbia Office

10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy, #420
Columbia, MD 21044-3563

Bethesda Office:

(By Appointment Only)

7315 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 800 West
Bethesda, MD 20814

Washington, DC Office:

2101 L Street, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037

  • Facebook
  • Google Plus
  • linkedin

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from www.mcdonaldesq.com

© 2016 - 2024 McDonald Law Firm, LLC. All rights reserved.