An irrevocable trust allows you to exercise some control over property that you give to your loved ones during life. By making a present gift during lifetime, all of the income and appreciation on the property from the time of the gift to the date of your death is effectively transferred tax free. In addition, the effective gift tax rates are substantially less than the estate tax rates (33% vs. 50% for example). Up to $13,000 per donor/per donee can be transferred tax-free each year.
By making the gift to a trust instead of outright, you can exercise some control over the use to which the property will be put (for example, by keeping it in the family), and in addition, you can give the beneficiary the added benefit of receiving a gift that can be protected to some extent from the beneficiary’s creditors (including a spouse). If the gift is within the available generation skipping transfer tax exemption, another advantage is that it may pass to the donee’s children (for example) without being subject to estate tax in the donee’s estate.