Smart Money:  You have to hand it to Congress: It's doing its best to turn one of the more wearying parts of retirement planning — getting your estate in order — into something of a party. The challenge for you and me is to stay clearheaded.

The Tax Relief Act of 2010, passed in December, made headlines primarily for retaining the Bush-era income tax cuts. But lawmakers also approved changes in estate and gift taxes that left lawyers and accountants gushing. (“Unprecedented.” “Historic.” “Astonishing.”) Most notably, the gift-tax exemption jumps from $1 million to $5 million, which means Americans can now bequeath the latter amount without paying a dime in taxes. This exemption is separate from the annual gift-tax exclusion, currently $13,000.