Category: Asset Protection

LLCs can Reduce Estate Taxes

LLCs can Reduce Estate Taxes

Family LLCs can be used to protect assets, reduce estate taxes and more efficiently shift income to family members, reports the article “Handling Estates Like An LLC Can Reduce Taxes” from Financial Advisor. The qualified business income and pass-through entity tax deductions may add significant benefits to the family.

What is a Family LLC? They are holding companies owned by two or more individuals, with two classes of owners: general partners (typically the parents) and limited partners (heirs). Contributed assets of the general partners are no longer considered part of their estate, and future appreciation on the assets are not counted as part of their taxable estate.

Consider the LLC as three separate pieces: control, equity and cash flow. Because of the separation, you can maintain control of the personal/business assets, while at the same time transferring non-controlling equity of the assets to someone else via a gift, a sale, or a combination of the two.

An added benefit—transfers of non-controlling equity can qualify for a discount on the value for tax reporting, minimizing any gift or estate tax consequences of the transfer. Discounting business entities with very liquid assets is generally not advisable. However, illiquid assets could warrant a discount as high as 40%.

These types of structures are complicated. Therefore, you’ll need an estate planning attorney with experience in how Family LLCs interact with estate planning. The LLC must be properly structured and have a legitimate business purpose.

It’s important to note that if a real estate or operating business is put into an LLC and taxed as a pass-through entity instead of a sole proprietorship, they may be eligible for the 20% discount under Section 199A, or for the pass—through entity tax workaround for the limitation of the deductibility of state taxes for individuals and trusts.

Every state has its own rules about income qualifying for a state income tax deduction on the federal level. If you have an entity in place, you’ll want to speak with your attorney to determine if a pass-through entity on the state level will be advantageous. If so, this election may allow for a state income tax deduction on the federal level.

Your estate planning attorney will help you get a qualified appraisal of the assets, since the IRS will require an accurate value of the transfer for reporting purposes, especially if a discount is being contemplated. LLCs can reduce estate taxes and protect your assets, but this is a complex matter. The estate planning and tax advantages to be gained make it worthwhile for families with a certain level of assets to protect. If you would like to learn more about LLCs and how they can benefit your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Financial Advisor (April 4, 2022) “Handling Estates Like An LLC Can Reduce Taxes”

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Safeguard your Inheritance from Divorce

Safeguard your Inheritance from Divorce

Even if divorce is the last thing on your mind, when an inheritance is received, its wise to treat it differently from your joint assets, advises a recent article “Revocable Inheritance Trust: Inexpensive Divorce Protection” from Forbes. After all, most people don’t expect to be divorced. However, the numbers have to be considered—many do divorce, even those who least expect it. There are a few ways to safeguard your inheritance from divorce.

Maintaining separate property is the most important step to take. If you deposit a spouse’s paycheck into the account with your inheritance, even if it was by accident, you’ve now commingled the funds.

You might get lucky and have a forensic accountant who can dissect that amount and make the argument it was a mistake, as long as it only happened once, but the Court might not agree.

Long before the Court gets to consider this point, if your ex-spouse’s attorney is aggressively pursuing this one act of commingling as enough to make the property jointly owned, you could lose half of your inheritance in a divorce.

You might also try to mount a defense of the particular account or asset being separate property, by identifying the means of transfer. Was there a deed for real estate gifted to you from a parent or a wire transfer for securities? This information will need to be carefully identified and safeguarded as soon as the inheritance comes to you, in case of any future upheavals.

To spare yourself any of this grief, there are steps to be taken now to avoid commingling. Document the source of wealth involved as a gift or inheritance, maintain the property in a wholly separate account and consider keeping it in a different financial institution than any other accounts to avoid commingling.

Another way to safeguard your inheritance, such as gifts and inherited property, against a 50% divorce rate is to use a revocable trust. Creating a revocable trust to own this separate property allows you to make changes to it any time but maintains its separate nature, by serving as a wholly separate accounting entity. The trust will own the property, while you as grantor (creator of the trust) and trustee (responsible for managing the trust) maintain control.

For a turbo-charged version of this concept, you could go with a self-settled domestic asset protection trust. This is a more complex trust and may not be necessary. Your estate planning attorney will be able to explain the difference between this trust and a revocable trust.

One clear warning: if you have already created a revocable trust to protect your estate and it is not funded, you may feel like it would be most convenient to use this already-existing trust for your inheritance. That would not be wise. You should have a completely different trust created for the inherited property, and this would also be a wise time to remember to fund the existing trust.

Using a revocable trust this way will also require customized language in your Last Will, as you’ll want standard language in the Last Will to reflect the trust being separate from your other marital property. If you would like to read more about divorce protection, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (April 13, 2022) “Revocable Inheritance Trust: Inexpensive Divorce Protection”

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Several Ways to Avoid Probate

Several Ways to Avoid Probate

Probate can tie up the estate for months and be an added expense. It can be a financial and emotional nightmare if you have not planned ahead. Some states have a streamlined process for less valuable estates, but probate still has delays, extra expense and work for the estate administrator. A probated estate is also a public record anyone can review. There are, however, several ways to avoid probate.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “7 Ways To Avoid Probate Without A Living Trust” says that avoiding probate often is a big estate planning goal. You can structure the estate so that all or most of it passes to your loved ones without this process.

A living trust is the most well-known way to avoid probate. However, retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, avoid probate. The beneficiary designation on file with the account administrator or trustee determines who inherits them. Likewise, life insurance benefits and annuities are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the contract.

Joint accounts and joint title are ways to avoid probate. Married couples can own real estate or financial accounts through joint tenancy with right of survivorship. The surviving spouse automatically takes full title after the other spouse passes away. Non-spouses also can establish joint title, like when a senior creates a joint account with an adult child at a financial institution. The child will automatically inherit the account when the parent passes away without probate. If the parent cannot manage his or her affairs at some point, the child can manage the finances without the need for a power of attorney.

Note that all joint owners have equal rights to the property. A joint owner can take withdrawals without the consent of the other. Once joint title is established you cannot sell, give or dispose of the property without the consent of the other joint owner.

A transfer on death provision (TOD) is another vehicle to avoid probate. You might come across the traditional term Totten trust, which is another name for a TOD or POD account (but there is no trust involved). After the original owner passes away, the TOD account is transferred to the beneficiary or changed to his or her name, once the financial institution gets the death certificate.

You can name multiple beneficiaries and specify the percentage of the account each will inherit. However, beneficiaries under a TOD have no rights in or access to the account while the owner is alive. An estate planning attorney will be able to identify several ways for you to avoid a costly probate. If you would like to read more about probate, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (March 28, 2022) “7 Ways To Avoid Probate Without A Living Trust”

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Things You should Leave Out of a Will

Things You should Leave Out of a Will

We have written many blog posts over the years about ensuring sure certain things are included in your will. Yet, there are things you should leave out of a will. Let’s look at what shouldn’t be in a will, according to Best Life’s recent article titled “Never Include These 2 Things in Your Will, Experts Warn.”

  1. Never include a conditional gift in your will. A conditional gift is when money or property is given only when and if a specific event takes place. For instance, grandpa might leave a conditional gift for his grandchild, if she graduates college or gets married. These provisions are often drafted in the hopes of encouraging or discouraging certain behaviors and have a tendency to get messy.

Even the seemingly basic condition of graduating from college can turn into a major issue, if the beneficiary decides to pursue the trades or accelerates in college and is offered an excellent job before earning her degree.

Similar obstacles—and, frequently, creative workarounds from beneficiaries who want to unlock their inheritance—will also be encountered with other conditional gifts. However, there are still ways to achieve the spirit of the conditional gift without it getting complicated. Instead, give the bequest outright without any conditions but include the encouragement that the beneficiary does something specific.

Another option is to hold the gift in a trust for a beneficiary. With a trust you can designate a trustee to be in control of the assets in the trust after your death. The trustee will have discretion as to the timing and amount of distributions. You can also detail how narrow or broad that discretion should be.

  1. Be careful with dollar amount bequests. The second thing you should never include in your will is a dollar amount bequest.

While this might seem common, it’s not recommended. This also has the potential to create major conflict within a family.

A better option is to use percentages. In this way, your estate will self-correct for size and each beneficiary will get their proper share.

Every will is specific to the person who creates it. In order to ensure that you are not including things you should leave out of a will, meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a will that benefits you and your loved ones—without any unexpected problems. If you would like to learn more about drafting a will, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Best Life (March 20, 2022) “Never Include These 2 Things in Your Will, Experts Warn”

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Estate Planning complicated by Property in Two States

Estate Planning complicated by Property in Two States

Estate planning can be complicated by property in two states. Cleveland Jewish News’ recent article titled “Use attorney when considering multi-state estate plan says that if a person owns real estate or other tangible property (like a boat) in another state, they should think about creating a trust that can hold all their real estate. You don’t need one for each state. You can assign or deed their property to the trust, no matter where the property is located.

Some inherited assets require taxes be paid by the inheritors. Those taxes are determined by the laws of the state in which the asset is located.

A big mistake that people frequently make is not creating a trust. When a person fails to do this, their assets will go to probate. Some other common errors include improperly titling the property in their trust or failing to fund the trust. When those things occur, ancillary probate is required.  This means a probate estate needs to be opened in the other state. As a result, there may be two probate estates going on in two different states, which can mean twice the work and expense, as well as twice the stress.

Having two estates going through probate simultaneously in two different states can delay the time it takes to close the probate estate.

There are some other options besides using a trust to avoid filing an ancillary estate. Most states let an estate holder file a “transfer on death affidavit,” also known as a “transfer on death deed” or “beneficiary deed” when the asset is real estate. This permits property to go directly to a beneficiary without needing to go through probate.

A real estate owner may also avoid probate by appointing a co-owner with survivorship rights on the deed. Do not attempt this without consulting an attorney.

If you have real estate, like a second home, in another state (and) you die owning that individually, you’re going to have to probate that in the state where it’s located. It is usually best to avoid probate in multiple jurisdictions, and also to avoid probate altogether.

A co-owner with survivorship is an option for avoiding probate. If there’s no surviving spouse, or after the first one dies, you could transfer the estate to their revocable trust.

Estate planning can be complicated by property in two states. Each state has different requirements. If you’re going to move to another state or have property in another state, you should consult with a local estate planning attorney. If you would like to learn more about managing real estate in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Cleveland Jewish News (March 21, 2022) “Use attorney when considering multi-state estate plan”

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A trust provides more flexibility than a will

A Trust provides more flexibility than a Will

A trust is defined as a legal contract that lets an individual or entity (the trustee) hold assets on behalf of another person (the beneficiary). The assets in the trust can be cash, investments, physical assets like real estate, business interests and digital assets. There is no minimum amount of money needed to establish a trust. A trust provides more flexibility than a will.

US News’ recent article entitled “Trusts Explained” explains that trusts can be structured in a number of ways to instruct the way in which the assets are handled both during and after your lifetime. Trusts can reduce estate taxes and provide many other benefits.

Placing assets in a trust lets you know that they will be managed through your instructions, even if you’re unable to manage them yourself. Trusts also bypass the probate process. This lets your heirs get the trust assets faster than if they were transferred through a will.

The two main types of trusts are revocable (known as “living trusts”) and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust allows the grantor to change the terms of the trust or dissolve the trust at any time. Revocable trusts avoid probate, but the assets in them are generally still considered part of your estate. That is because you retain control over them during your lifetime.

To totally remove the assets from your estate, you need an irrevocable trust. An irrevocable trust cannot be altered by the grantor after it’s been created. Therefore, if you’re the grantor, you can’t change the terms of the trust, such as the beneficiaries, or dissolve the trust after it has been established.

You also lose control over the assets you put into an irrevocable trust.

Trusts provide you with more flexibility to control your assets than a will does. With a trust, you can set more particular terms as to when your beneficiaries receive those assets. Another type of trust is created under a last will and testament and is known as a testamentary trust. Although the last will must be probated to create the testamentary trust, this trust can protect an inheritance from and for your heirs as you design.

Trusts are not a do-it-yourself proposition: ask for the expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney. If you would like to read more about trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: US News (Feb. 7, 2022) “Trusts Explained”

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options to give assets to minor grandchildren.

Options to give Assets to Minor Grandchildren

If a married couple is creating its estate plan, then how does the couple leave the estate to non-adult grandchildren? What if something were to happen to them before the grandchildren become adults? Can this couple make sure the minor grandchildren do not get control of any inheritance until they’re adults? There are options to give assets to minor grandchildren.

Nj.com’s recent article entitled “How can I leave my money to my minor grandchildren when I die?” says that one way to solve these issues is to create a testamentary trust to provide for young beneficiaries whether they’re children, grandchildren, step-children, or unrelated beneficiaries. The terms of a testamentary trust are in your will. It is only established and funded after you pass away.

The terms of the trust generally provide instructions to the trustee about the ages at which distributions must be made, if any. These instructions also allow the trustee to make discretionary distributions of income and principal to the beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries do not need to be identified by name or need to be born at the time the will is written.  However, they must be able to be identified upon your death. As a result, you can provide a bequest to all of your grandchildren, whether or not they are born yet.

It doesn’t matter where your grandchildren live as far as estate planning is concerned. However, if they live outside the United States and the bequest is considerable, the laws of their home country should be addressed. This is because a big gift may cause adverse tax implications to the recipient.

For children, some states’ laws allow you to add a term in your will that penalizes any interested person — like an heir or beneficiary — for contesting the will.

However, if there’s probable cause initiating a proceeding concerning the estate, then the clause will not be enforced.

When a person names another as primary beneficiary, they should also name one or more contingent beneficiaries, so that if the first person predeceases him or her, they will not have to revise the will.

If you do not designate a contingent beneficiary, and an heir predeceases, the assets pass according to the state’s intestacy statute rather than according to the will. You have options to ensure assets you give to minor grandchildren are honored after you pass. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you draft a testamentary trust that is right for you. If you would like to learn more about testamentary trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: nj.com (Dec. 9, 2021) “How can I leave my money to my minor grandchildren when I die?”

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What are the Advantages of Modern Directed Trust?

What are the Advantages of Modern Directed Trust?

Many families use their estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions to fund a flexible modern trust for non-tax reasons, explains an article “Trust Planning in Unprecedented Times” from Wealth Management. Future uncertainty is one of the reasons, which seems keenly appropriate today. What are the advantages of a modern directed trust?

Passing family values as well as wealth to future generations is an important part of estate planning for many families. A directed trust can accomplish both goals, through the participation of family members and advisors in the directed trust’s distribution committee (DC). The DC decides how trust income and principal will be distributed and directs the administrative trustee accordingly.

Any distribution over and above the health, education, maintenance and support of beneficiaries needs to be considered from a tax-sensitive perspective, but the DC has the flexibility to make these decisions.

These modern directed trusts can also be created to allow for charitable purposes. Donations to charity from a non-charitable modern directed trusts lets the family express its social responsibility, while obtaining unlimited income tax deductions to the trust.

There are instances where knowledge of a trust is kept from beneficiaries or other family members, if they lack the financial maturity or don’t understand or comply with family values. Other reasons to keep a trust quiet are asset protection, divorce, ID theft and similar issues. In many modern trust states, the trust can remain quiet, even after the grantor has died or becomes incapacitated.

Modern directed trusts provide protection against divorce. Often the trust’s main protection is the use of a spendthrift provision, which prevents the assignment of a beneficiaries’ interests in an irrevocable trust before the interest is distributed. There are exceptions to the spendthrift clause, and alimony is one of them. In recent cases, courts have disregarded the spendthrift clause when exceptions are involved, especially in cases of divorce.

Litigation can be a problem for trusts. One of the advantages of a modern directed trust is the excellent asset protection it provides when trust discretionary interests are not defined as property or an enforcement right. Many trusts have clauses providing a court to award legal fees and costs to the winning party. The trustee may be reimbursed for attorney’s fees if the plaintiff loses, a significant discouragement for embarking on litigation against a modern trust.

COVID-19 has reframed how often people think about their mortality, which has fueled interest in creating trusts to protect family assets and heirlooms. A “purpose trust” doesn’t have beneficiaries, but is created to care, protect and preserve an asset, either for an extended period of time or even perpetuity. Assets typically placed in a purpose trust include gravesites, antiques, art, jewelry, royalties, digital assets, land, property, buildings and vacation homes.

The uncertain times in which we live call for unprecedented estate planning. Modern directed trusts are a way to preserve wealth across generations with flexibility. Regardless of what changes to federal estate, gift or generation skipping trusts may come in the future, trusts make sense. If you would like to learn more about asset protection, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Wealth Management (Jan. 10, 2022) “Trust Planning in Unprecedented Times”

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Avoid Password Problems in Estate Planning

Avoid Password Problems in Estate Planning

Barron’s recent article entitled “How to Ensure Heirs Avoid a Password-Protected Nightmare” explains that even financial planners may not consider until too late, how difficult it can be to recover and access a loved one’s accounts after they pass away. Since we are much more paperless with our finances, getting access to these accounts can be extremely hard for heirs, if they don’t have the right information. That’s because digital accounts are protected by encryption, multifactor authentication and federal data privacy laws. There are ways to avoid password problems in your estate planning.

Create a list of digital accounts and instructions on how to access them. The list should include not only financial assets but social media and other accounts. Digital accounts that loved ones or advisors may need to access following a death include:

  • Traditional financial accounts
  • Cryptocurrency accounts
  • Home payment and utilities accounts
  • Health insurance benefits
  • Email accounts
  • Social media
  • Smartphone accounts
  • Storage and file-sharing
  • Photo, music and video accounts
  • E-commerce accounts
  • Subscriptions to streaming services, such as Netflix, newspapers, music services; and
  • Loyalty/rewards programs for airlines and hotels.

Create a list of accounts, passwords and access information, keeping it up to date as information changes and letting a trusted person, such as an executor or estate planning attorney, know its location. Without a password list, it can be a nightmare.

Note that with every digital account, there’s a specific process that heirs must undertake to gain access, which should then be communicated clearly in your estate plan. Make a list of all digital assets and their access information, but don’t include this in the will itself, since the document is part of the public record in probate.

Being prepared well ahead of time in your estate planning can help your family avoid password problems that may cause undue stress and delays as they probate your estate. It also ensures that they don’t forfeit significant financial assets concealed behind an impenetrable digital wall. If you would like to read more about protecting digital assets, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Barron’s (Dec. 15, 2021) “How to Ensure Heirs Avoid a Password-Protected Nightmare”

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Non-Grantor Trusts can be useful

Non-Grantor Trusts can be Useful

Yahoo News’ recent article entitled “How a Non-Grantor Trust Works” says that a grantor trust lets the grantor (the person creating the trust) maintain certain powers of the trust. No matter the scope of the powers involved, what’s unique about grantor trusts is their tax treatment—the trust grantor is responsible for paying income tax on the trust assets. Any income the trust generates or receives is taxable to the grantor, who reports it on their personal tax return. Non-Grantor Trusts can be useful in a number of situations.

A non-grantor trust is any trust that isn’t a grantor trust. As a result, they can’t revoke or change the terms of the trust or make changes to trust beneficiaries. This lack of control means that a non-grantor trust is treated as a separate tax entity. Therefore, the trust itself must pay taxes on any income that’s received and file a tax return. A non-grantor trust can offer certain tax benefits to the trust grantor: (i) the grantor wouldn’t have to pay tax on the trust income, which may be a benefit where the grantor prefers to assume no further financial responsibility for the trust or its assets; and (ii) there can be positive tax implications, if the trust beneficiaries are in a lower tax bracket than the grantor. When trust income is distributed to beneficiaries in a lower tax bracket, it may be taxed at a lower rate than it would if the grantor were being taxed.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a non-grantor trust if you run a business, since the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction lets eligible taxpayers deduct up to 20% of qualified business income, as well as 20% of qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership (PTP) income. If you own a business, and your income is above the allowed threshold to qualify for the QBI deduction, you could create a non-grantor trust as a work-around and divide the ownership of your business assets and its associated income. This may let you qualify for the QBI deduction.

However, there are some potential drawbacks with non-grantor trusts. Remember, the trust grantor lacks control of what happens with trust assets. It is also important to consider how any transactions between you as the grantor and the trust may be taxed. Certain interactions, including the movement of assets or income between the two, is taxable because you and the trust are two separate entities, which may mean taxes for one or the other.

In addition, an incomplete non-grantor (ING) trust is a type of trust that’s used for asset protection. It’s frequently used by those who live in states with high income tax rates or no state income tax. If you live in a state with high income tax rates, you could create an incomplete non-grantor trust and fund it using appreciated assets that have a low tax basis. If the trust is created in a state that has lower income tax rates or no state income tax, it may reduce the grantor’s tax bill when later selling those assets.

Incomplete non-grantor trusts can also allow you to transfer ownership of assets to the trust without paying gift tax. There are also the other tax benefits associated with non-grantor trusts.

Non-grantor trusts can be useful in a variety of circumstances. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney if one would be useful for your tax and estate planning situation. If you would like to learn more about trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Yahoo News (Nov. 9, 2021) “How a Non-Grantor Trust Works”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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