Category: Estate Tax

Plan carefully before withdrawing retirement funds

Plan Carefully before withdrawing Retirement Funds

As much as 70% of your retirement funds could evaporate after income tax, estate and state taxes, says a recent article titled “9 smart ways to withdraw retirement funds,” from Bankrate.com. While this number may sound extreme, a closer look shows how easily it could happen, even to families who are well under today’s high federal estate tax exemptions. It is wise to plan carefully before withdrawing retirement funds. Here’s how to avoid this minefield.

Watch the rules on RMDs—Required Minimum Distributions. Once you turn 72, you’re required to start taking a minimum amount from tax-deferred retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. The penalty for failing to do so is severe: a 50% excise tax. If you get the math wrong and don’t take out enough money, the penalty is just as bad. Let’s say your RMD is $20,000 but somehow you only take $5,000. The IRS will levy a $7,500 tax bill: half the $15,000 you were supposed to pay. Ouch!

When you calculate your RMD, remember it changes from year to year. The RMD is based on your age, life-expectancy and account balance, which is the fair market value of the assets in your accounts on December 31 the year before you take a distribution.

Take withdrawals from accounts in the right order. Which retirement funds should you withdraw from first? A Roth IRA will be tax free but use taxable accounts first and leave the Roths for later. Here’s why.

If a 72-year-old person takes $18,000 from a traditional IRA in the 24% tax bracket, their tax bill will be $4,320. The same withdrawal from a Roth IRA won’t create any tax liability. However, if they leave the Roth alone and earn 7% annually on the $18,000 for another ten years, it could grow to $35,409, which will also be tax free when withdrawn. It’s worth the wait.

Do you know the way to take distributions? Most Americans have had several jobs and have retirement accounts in different institutions. It may be time to consolidate assets into one IRA. This can make it much easier to calculate future withdrawals, tax liabilities and asset allocation. Plan carefully before withdrawing, you may need help from your estate planning attorney. You can’t take withdrawals from an IRA to meet RMD requirements for 403(b)s, 401(k)s or other plans. 401(k) plans may not be pooled to calculate a single RMD. Handle any consolidations with great care to avoid incurring tax penalties.

RMDs are different in some situations. If one spouse is significantly younger than the other, RMDs might be lowered. RMDs are calculated using factors like life expectancy (as determined by IRS tables). If a spouse is the sole beneficiary of an IRA, and they are at least ten years younger than you, the RMD calculation is done using a joint-life expectancy table. The amount of the RMD will be reduced according to the table.

Charitable contributions count. People aged 70½ or older are permitted to make tax free donations, known as qualified charitable distributions, of up to $100,000 to a charity as part of their RMD. This distribution does not count as income, reducing income tax to the donor. If you file a joint return, a spouse may also make a contribution up to $100,000. You can’t itemize these as a charitable deduction, but it’s a good way to minimize taxes.

Withdrawals don’t have to be cash. RMDs can be stocks or bonds, which are assigned a fair-market value on the date they are moved from the IRA to a taxable account. This may be easier and less expensive than triggering fees by selling securities in an IRA and then buying them back in a brokerage account.

Can you delay RMDs if you’re still working? If you’re still working at age 72 and continuing to fund a 401(k) or 403(b), you can delay taking RMDs, as long as you don’t own more than 5% of a company and your retirement plan permits this. Check with the 401(k) custodian or human resources to be sure this is allowable to avoid expensive penalties.

Smart money management is just as important in taking money from your retirement accounts as it is in building those accounts. Plan carefully before withdrawing retirement funds. Make informed decisions to maximize your savings and minimize taxes.

If you would like to read more about retirement accounts and estate planning, please check out our previous posts. 

Reference: Bankrate.com (Aug. 31, 2021) “9 smart ways to withdraw retirement funds”

The Estate of The Union Episode 9 out now

 

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failures of do-it-yourself estate planning

Failures of Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning

US News & World Report’s recent article entitled “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning explains that the coronavirus pandemic has made many people face decisions about estate planning. Many will use a do-it-yourself solution. Internet DIY websites make it easy to download forms. However, there are mistakes people make when they try do-it-yourself estate planning. There are ways to avoid the failures of do-it-yourself estate planning.

Here are some issues with do-it-yourself that estate planning attorneys regularly see:

You need to know what to ask. If you’re trying to complete a specific form, you may be able to do it on your own. However, the challenge is sometimes not knowing what to ask. If you want a more comprehensive end-of-life plan and aren’t sure about what you need in addition to a will, work with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you want to cover everything, and are not sure what everything is, that’s why you see them.

More complex issues require professional help. Take a more holistic look at your estate plan and look at estate planning, tax planning and financial planning together, since they’re all interrelated. If you only look at one of these areas at a time, you may create complications in another. This could unintentionally increase your expenses or taxes. Your situation might also include special issues or circumstances. A do-it-yourself website might not be able to tell you how to account for your specific situation in the best possible way. It will just give you a blanket list, and it will all be cookie cutter. You won’t have the individual attention to your goals and priorities you get by sitting down and talking to an experienced estate planning attorney.

Estate laws vary from state to state. Every state may have different rules for estate planning, such as for powers of attorney or a health care proxy. There are also 17 states and the District of Columbia that tax your estate, inheritance, or both. These tax laws can impact your estate planning. Eleven states and DC only have an estate tax (CT, HI, IL, ME, MA, MN, NY, OR, RI, VT and WA). Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have only an inheritance tax. Maryland has both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.

Setting up health care directives and making end-of-life decisions can be very involved. Avoid the failures of do-it-yourself estate planning. It’s too important to try to do it yourself. If you make a mistake, it could impact the ability of your family to take care of financial expenses or manage health care issues. Don’t do it yourself.

If you would like more information on crating an estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: US News & World Report (July 5, 2021) “6 Common Myths About Estate Planning”

New Installment of The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

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selling a home in an irrevocable trust

Selling a Home in an Irrevocable Trust

A trustee should be aware that selling a home in an irrevocable trust for a parent who died means that generally, assets transferred to an irrevocable trust will be deemed a completed gift and will not be included in an estate for estate tax purposes.

Lehigh Valley Live’s recent article entitled “What happens to tax on a home sold from a trust?” explains that this means there wouldn’t be a step-up in basis to the fair market value upon the decedent’s death.

Remember that an irrevocable trust is a type of trust in which its terms can’t be modified, amended, or terminated without the permission of the grantor’s named beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Irrevocable trusts have tax-shelter benefits that revocable trusts to don’t.

However, an irrevocable trust can be created so that the settlor (the creator) of the trust keeps certain rights and powers, so that gifts to the trust are incomplete.

In that instance, the assets are included in the settlor’s estate upon death and obtain a step-up in basis upon the decedent’s death.

If the trust sells the asset in the trust, the trust may need to file Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, and the trust may be required to pay a tax.

If the trust distributes any income to the beneficiaries in the same tax year it receives that income, the income is passed through to the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries must report it on the beneficiaries’ individual tax returns (Form 1040) and pay any tax due.

It’s generally a good idea to report and pay tax at the individual rate instead of at the trust or estate level.

That’s because the trust or estate will begin to pay tax at the highest rate at only $13,150. In comparison, an individual doesn’t pay tax at the highest rate until his or her income exceeds over $440,000.

Note that an irrevocable trust is a more complex legal arrangement than a revocable trust. Selling a home in an irrevocable trust can be a headache. As a result, there might be current income tax and future estate tax implications when using this type of trust. It’s wise to seek the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Lehigh Valley Live (Aug. 16, 2021) “What happens to tax on a home sold from a trust?”

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New Installment of The Estate of The Union Podcast

 

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The Estate of The Union Episode 10 out now

New Installment of The Estate of The Union Podcast

In this new installment of The Estate of The Union Podcast, Brad Wiewel is joined by Ann Lumley, JD, the Director of After Life Services and Trust Administration for Texas Trust Law to discuss celebrity estate planning screw ups.

The size and scope of the mistakes made by celebrities may be enormous, but many of the mistakes are common for, well, us common people. Ann and Brad discuss the havoc created by celebrities when they died with no planning or inadequate planning. It’s a fun, fast moving discussion on What-Not-To-Do. Learning lessons from celebrity estate planning mistakes is a good way to prevent yourself from making those same errors. If you don’t have an estate plan, get it started. If you haven’t looked at your estate plan in a while, have it reviewed.

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insight into estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand.

It is Estate Planning Made Simple!

The Estate of The Union can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

Episode 8 of The Estate of The Union podcast is out now

The Wiewel Law Firm focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. 

When should you terminate an ILIT?

When Should You Terminate an ILIT?

When should you terminate an ILIT? The purpose of an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) is to own and control term or permanent life insurance policies, so the policy proceeds aren’t part of the insured’s taxable estate upon death.  Nj.com’s recent article entitled “Should I terminate this trust and do I need a will?” looks at the situation where a person created a revocable (RLT) and an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to take care of his family after his death.

However, now everyone in the family is financially independent and the value of his estate is far below the 2021 taxable threshold of $11.7 million.

Should he terminate the ILIT and RLT and simply designate his children as beneficiaries of his investment accounts and life insurance?

In this situation, the ILIT was funded with a term policy that’s set to expire soon. As a result, it may be easier to let the policy owned by the ILIT expire.

If that happens, the ILIT would be immaterial. Note that the terms of the trust will dictate the procedure for the termination of the ILIT. This can be simple or difficult. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to examine the trust’s language. A revocable living trust lets the individual creating the trust control the assets in the trust and avoid probate.

This type of trust can also be used to manage the trust assets by a successor trustee, if the grantor who created the trust becomes incapacitated.

An experienced estate planning attorney will know the state laws that regulate trusts, so consult with him or her. For example, banks in New Jersey may freeze 50% of the assets in an estate upon the owner’s death to make certain that any estate or inheritance taxes due are paid. In the Garden State, a tax waiver must be obtained to lift the freeze. However, the assets in a trust aren’t subject to a similar freeze.

At the grantor’s death, a trustee must pay income tax, if the gross income of the trust reaches the threshold. However, the trust may not accumulate gross income of $600, if the assets are distributed outright to the beneficiaries soon after the death of the grantor. Work with an estate planning attorney to ensure you have your finances in order if you terminate an ILIT.

If you would like to learn more about ILITs and other life insurance options, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: nj.com (June 15, 2021) “Should I terminate this trust and do I need a will?”

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Episode 7 of The Estate of The Union podcast is out now

 

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charitable options to reduce estate taxes

Charitable options to Reduce Estate Taxes

Increasing tax changes for the wealthy are coming, and motivation to find ways to protect the wealth is getting increased attention, according to a recent article from CNBC entitled “Here’s how to reduce exposure to tax increases with charitable contributions.” Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) and Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are options for people who are already charitably inclined to reduce estate taxes. The CRT is complicated, requiring estate planning attorneys to create them and accountants to maintain them. The DAF is simpler, less expensive and is growing in popularity.

Both enable income tax deductions, in the current year or carried forward for five years, on cash contributions of up to 60% of the donors’ AGI and up to 30% of AGI on contributed assets. These contributions also reduce the size of taxable estates.

CRTs funnel asset income into a tax-advantaged cash stream that goes to the donor or another designated non-charitable beneficiary. The income stream flows for a set term or, if desired, for the lifetime of the non-charitable beneficiary. The trusts must be designed, so that at the end of the term, at least 10% of the funds remain to be donated to a charity, which must be designated at the outset.

No tax is due on proceeds from the sale of trust assets, until the cash makes its way to the non-charitable beneficiary. When assets are held by individuals, their sale creates capital gains tax in the year they are sold.

CRT donors can fund the trusts with highly appreciated assets, then manage them for optimal returns while minimizing tax exposure by adjusting the income stream to spread the tax burden over an extended period of time. If capital gains tax rates are raised by Congress, this would be even better for high earners.

DAFs do not allow dispersals to non-charitable beneficiaries. All gains must ultimately be donated to charity. However, the DAF provides advantages. They are easy to create and can be set up with most large financial service companies. Their cost is lower than CRTs, which have recurring fees for handling required IRS filings and trust management. Charges from financial institutions typically range from 0.1% to 1% annually, depending upon the size, and a custodial fee for holding the account.

DAFs can be created and funded by individuals or a family and receive a deduction that very same year. There is no hurry to name the charitable beneficiaries or direct donations. With a CRT, donors must name a charitable beneficiary when the trust is created. These elections are difficult to change in the future, since the CRT is an irrevocable trust. The DAF allows ongoing review of giving goals.

Funding a DAF can be done with as little as $5,000. The DAF contribution can include shares of privately owned businesses, collectibles, even cryptocurrency, as long as the valuation methods used for the assets meet IRS rules. Donors can get tax deductions without having to use cash, since a wide range of assets may be used.

The DAF is a good way for less wealthy individuals and families to qualify for itemizing tax deductions, rather than taking the standard deduction. DAF donations are deductible the year they are made, so filers may consolidate what may be normally two years’ worth of donations into a single year for tax purposes. This is a way of meeting the IRS threshold to qualify for itemizing deductions.

Both charitable options are effective ways to reduce estate taxes. Which of these two works best depends upon your individual situation. With your estate planning attorney, you’ll want to determine how much of your wealth would benefit from this type of protection and how it would work with your overall estate plan.

If you would like to learn more about charitable contributions, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CNBC (April 20, 201) “Here’s how to reduce exposure to tax increases with charitable contributions.”

 

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Roth IRAs are an ideal planning tool

Tax Liabilities when a Loved One Dies

Sooner or later, someone has to resolve the tax liabilities when a loved one dies. It is usually a family member who faces this task. For one woman, the unexpected passing of her father in early 2018 left her the task of filing his 2017 return and the family’s estate planning attorney filed the 2018 return through the father’s estate. The family is still waiting for the 2017 tax refund from the IRS, and needs to resolve a stimulus check for $1,200 her family received last spring that had to be sent back.

Many families are facing similar situations, as reported in this recent article “Death and taxes: Americans grapple with filing the final tax return for deceased relatives in a pandemic year” from USA Today. Survivors are anxious about complex tax issues at the same time they are in mourning for a loved one.

The final tax return uses IRS Form 1040, the same one that would have been used if the taxpayer were living. The major difference: the word “deceased” is written after the taxpayer’s name.

If the taxpayer was married, the surviving spouse may file a joint return for the year of death. For two years after the taxpayer’s death, the surviving spouse may file as a qualifying widow or widower, which lets them continue to use the same tax brackets that apply to married-filing-jointly returns.

The larger the estate and income for a loved one, the more complicated taxes after death can become. Estate planning attorneys recommend naming an executor in the will and tasking them with taking care of final taxes.

The estate tax is paid on assets owned at the time of death. As of this writing, estates valued at more than $11.7 million (or $23.4 million per married couple), pay a 40% federal tax, in addition to state estate or inheritance taxes, if there are any. It is generally expected that the coming months will see a large reduction in the federal estate tax exemption.

The deadline to file a final return is the tax filing deadline of the year following the loved one’s death. The executor or administrator is usually the person who signs the tax return, although a surviving spouse signs the joint return. If there is no executor, whoever is responsible for filing the return signs it and should note that they are signing on behalf of the decedent. For a joint return, the spouse signs the return and writes “filing as surviving spouse” in the space for the other spouse’s signature.

There’s one more step if a return is due. If the deceased is owed money, the IRS Form 1310 should be used. That’s the Statement of a Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer. The IRS says that surviving spouses signing a joint return don’t have to file this form, but tax experts think it’s a good idea to try to proactively prevent any delays.

If there are tax liabilities when a loved one dies, the tax bill is to be settled by the estate’s executor. If there are insufficient funds to pay the federal income and estate taxes, relatives are not responsible for the remaining balance.

Note that the executor may be held liable if the assets are distributed before paying the taxes, or if the debts of the estate are paid before taxes are paid. The same is true if the executor is aware of the insufficient funds and inability to pay the taxes but spends assets anyway.

Talk with an estate planning attorney about the taxes that will need to be paid from an estate. You don’t want to leave a legacy of tax pain for the family. If you would like to learn more about tasks to complete when a loved one dies, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: USA Today (April 22, 2021) “Death and taxes: Americans grapple with filing the final tax return for deceased relatives in a pandemic year”

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Roth IRAs are an ideal planning tool

Potential Changes to the Estate Tax

Potential changes to the estate tax that are now being considered by President Biden may expand the number of Americans who will need to pay the federal estate tax in one of two ways: raising rates and lowering qualifying thresholds on estates and increasing the liability for inheriting and selling assets. It is likely that these changes will raise revenues from the truly wealthy, while also imposing estate taxes on Americans with more modest assets, according to a recent article “It May Be Time to Start Worrying About the Estate Tax” from The New York Times.

Inheritance taxes are paid by the estate of a person who died. Some states have estate taxes of their own, with lower asset thresholds. As of this writing, a married couple would need to have assets of more than $23.4 million before they had to plan for federal estate taxes. This historically high exemption may be ending sooner than originally anticipated.

One of the changes being considered is a common tax shelter. Known as the “step-up in basis at death,” this values the assets in an estate at the date of death and disregards any capital gains in a deceased person’s portfolio. Eliminating the step-up in basis would require inheritors to pay capital gains whenever they sold assets, including everything from the family home to stock portfolios.

If you’re lucky enough to inherit wealth, this little item has been an accounting gift for many years. A person who inherits stock doesn’t have to think twice about what their parents or grandparents paid decades ago. All of the capital gains in those shares or any other inherited investment are effectively erased, when the owner dies. There are no capital gains to calculate or taxes to pay.

However, those capital gains taxes are lost revenue to the federal government. Eliminating the step-up rules could potentially generate billions in taxes from the very wealthy but is likely to create financial pain for people who have lower levels of wealth. A family that inherited a home, for instance, would have a much bigger tax burden, even if the home was not a multi-million-dollar property but simply one that gained in value over time.

Reducing the estate tax exemption could lead to wealthy people having to revise their estate plans sooner rather than later. Twenty years ago, the exemption was $675,000 per person and the tax rate was 55%. Over the next two decades, the exemption grew and the rates fell. The exemption is now $11.7 million per person and the tax rate above that amount is 40%.

Lowering the exemption, possibly back to the 2009 level, would dramatically increase tax revenue.

What is likely to occur and when, remains unknown, but what is certain is that potential changes to the estate tax will require your attention. Stay up to date on proposed changes and be prepared to update your estate plan accordingly. If you are interested in learning more about the estate tax, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The New York Times (March 12, 2021) “It May Be Time to Start Worrying About the Estate Tax”

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assets not covered by a will

Time to Consider Business Succession Planning

The importance of the family business in the U.S. can’t be overstated. Neither can the problems that occur as a direct result of a failure to plan for succession. Owners of a family business need to take the time to consider business succession planning. Business succession planning is the development of a plan for determining when an owner will retire, what position in the company they will hold when they retire, who the eventual owners of the company will be and under what rules the new owners will operate, instructs a recent article, “Succession planning for family businesses” from The Times Reporter. An estate planning attorney plays a pivotal role in creating the plan, as the sale of the business will be a major factor in the family’s wealth and legacy.

  • Start by determining who will buy the business. Will it be a long-standing employee, partners, or family members?
  • Next, develop an advisory team of internal employees, your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor and insurance agent.
  • Have a financial evaluation of the business prepared by a qualified and accredited valuation professional.
  • Consider taxes (income, estate and gift taxes) and income requirements to sustain the owner’s current lifestyle, if the business is being sold outright.
  • Review estate planning strategies to reduce income and estate tax liabilities.
  • Examine the financial impact of the sale on the family member, if a non-family member buys the business.
  • Develop the structure of the sale.
  • Create a timeline for your business succession plan.
  • Get started on all of the legal and financial documents.
  • Meet with the family and/or the new owner on a regular basis to ensure a smooth transition.

Selling a business to the next generation or a new owner is an emotional decision, which is at the heart of most business owner’s utter failure to create a business succession plan. The sale forces them to confront the end of their role in the business, which they likely consider their life’s work. It also requires making decisions that involve family members that may be painful to confront.

The alternative is far worse for all concerned. If there is no plan, chances are the business will not survive. Without leadership and a clear path to the future, the owner may witness the destruction of their life’s work and a squandered legacy.

Take the time to consider business succession planning. Speak with your estate planning attorney and your accountant, who will have had experience helping business owners create and execute a succession plan. Talking about such a plan with family members can often create an emotional response. Working with professionals who benefit from a lack of emotional connection to the business will help the process be less about feelings and more about business. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for business owners, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Times Reporter (March 7, 2021) “Succession planning for family businesses”

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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 The Wiewel Law Firm to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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