Cancelling an irrevocable trust can cause a tax nightmare. For those in the high-income bracket, the potential tax consequences of canceling an irrevocable trust could be a major deterrent. And for those from middle-income backgrounds, the immediate financial impact, like the possible loss of income from the trust, the ramifications may be more, says Yahoo Finance’s recent article entitled, “Will Terminating an Irrevocable Trust Affect My Taxes?”
For example, if the trust holds significantly appreciated assets like real estate or vintage cars, the beneficiaries could face a large tax bill upon dissolution and may benefit from an alternative strategy. So, instead of dissolving the trust, it might be worth looking at ways to alter it better to fit the beneficiaries’ current needs and circumstances. This may include decanting—moving assets from one trust to another with more favorable terms— or moving the trust to a state with more favorable laws.
Income Taxes. An irrevocable trust may hold assets that generate income, including bank accounts, bonds, and dividend-paying stocks whose profits are taxed as ordinary income. Note that distributions from a trust’s principal aren’t subject to income taxes – only the gains. But if an irrevocable non-grantor trust is terminated, the income the assets have generated will presumably be distributed to the beneficiaries. It will be their responsibility to pay the taxes on the money. However, if the trust that’s dissolved is a grantor trust, the income tax liability will stay with the person who created the trust.
Capital Gains Taxes. Assets that appreciate within an irrevocable trust are subject to capital gains taxes. When these profits are realized and distributed at the termination of a trust, the beneficiaries will be required to pay the tax rate that corresponds with their income level.
Estate Taxes. When assets are transferred to an irrevocable trust, they’re removed from the grantor’s taxable estate, lowering the person’s potential estate tax liability when they die. Only large estates worth more than $12.92 million are subject to the federal estate tax in 2023, so it’s not an issue for most people. But in March 2023, the IRS announced that the step-up in basis doesn’t apply to assets held in irrevocable grantor trusts. For those assets to receive the step-up, they must be included in the grantor’s gross estate and be subjected to the federal estate tax. As a result, the termination of an irrevocable grantor trust could trigger the estate tax if assets return to their taxable estate.
Cancelling an irrevocable trust can cause a tax nightmare that may take years to resolve. Discuss your situation with your estate planning attorney for viable alternatives that may be less risky. If you would like to learn more about irrevocable trusts, please visit our previous posts.
Reference: Yahoo Finance (Aug. 13, 2021) “Will Terminating an Irrevocable Trust Affect My Taxes?”
Image by Shannon Lawford