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GENEROUS SANTAS: BE SURE YOUR CHECK IS CASHED SOON

If you're giving someone a big, fat check this year, be sure it is cashed by Dec. 31 if you plan to include the gift under your 1990 gift-tax exclusion.

Courts have ruled that gifts in the form of personal checks generally are not considered "complete" until the checks are cashed.

The gift-tax exclusion allows you to give up to $10,000 a year to as many people as you choose, free of federal taxes.

The donation also does not count against the exemption from federal estate taxes for estates valued at $600,000 or less.

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