Category: Exemptions

Senior Property Tax Exemption can provide Relief

Senior Property Tax Exemption can provide Relief

Estate planning and elder law attorneys often help retirees face unique challenges, such as how to afford their property’s rising values and real estate taxes on a fixed income. However, there’s good news: several states offer a senior property tax exemption, which can provide much-needed relief. Based on The Mortgage Reports’ article, “Property Tax Exemption for Seniors: What Is It and How to Claim It,” we look closely at the exemption and if it might work for you.

Only proactive seniors who ask their state, county, or city agency about tax breaks know if their state has a property tax exemption and if they qualify. The states with tax exemptions for homeowners ages 65 and older, like New York or Washington, likely won’t tell you if you qualify. If your state offers this tax break, claiming it is simpler than you might think.

What exactly are senior property tax exemptions? These exemptions are a lifeline for individuals aged 65 or older, reducing the burden of property taxes on their wallets. While property taxes are notoriously unpopular, especially among retirees on fixed incomes, these exemptions offer hope. The exemption helps seniors on fixed incomes by reducing the property value on which homeowners at least 65 years of age pay taxes. The tax rate remains the same for everyone: the reduced taxable value of property or properties. In some states, your tax exemption increases as you age.

States that offer a property exemption can reduce taxes based on a percentage or dollar amount. The amount seniors save varies by location, what they qualify for and their property value.

Senior property tax exemptions vary by state. In most states, you must meet minimum age requirements and prove that you occupy the home as your primary residence. The minimum age threshold varies from state to state, ranging from 61 to 65.  Income limit requirements also often exist. A higher income might disqualify you or reduce your exemption.

To claim your exemption, you must apply with your local tax office. Deadlines vary, so make sure to check your state’s requirements. Most states have websites where you can find the necessary forms and instructions.

Each state has its own set of rules and benefits regarding senior property tax exemptions. Some counties offer additional tax savings. By working with a local estate planning or elder law attorney, you can incorporate additional tax-saving strategies into your estate plan. Understanding your local rules and taking advantage of any available exemptions is essential.

The senior property tax exemption can provide much-needed tax relief for fixed-income budgets. By understanding the eligibility criteria, filing on time, and exploring state-specific benefits, you can lighten the burden of property taxes and enjoy a more financially secure retirement. If you would like to learn more about property taxes and estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Mortgage Reports (Jan 29, 2024) “Property Tax Exemption for Seniors: What It Is and How to Claim It.

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Bypass Trust is a pivotal Estate Planning Tool

Bypass Trust is a pivotal Estate Planning Tool

A bypass trust, also known as a credit shelter trust or B trust, is a pivotal estate planning tool. It’s designed to help minimize estate taxes and ensure that a larger portion of your assets reaches your intended beneficiaries. A bypass trust works by allowing a surviving spouse to benefit from the trust assets during their lifetime, while preserving the trust principal for the next generation.

One of the primary benefits of a bypass trust is its ability to shield assets from estate taxes. This trust type strategically utilizes the federal estate tax exemption, allowing couples to effectively double the amount exempted from estate taxes. When one spouse passes away, the assets up to the estate tax exemption amount can be transferred into the bypass trust, thus reducing the taxable estate of the surviving spouse.

In the bypass trust arrangement, the trust is split into two separate trusts when the first spouse dies. The survivor’s trust is revocable and contains the surviving spouse’s share of the estate, while the deceased spouse’s share is transferred into the bypass trust, which becomes irrevocable. This separation allows for efficient estate tax management.

The surviving spouse plays a crucial role in a bypass trust. They have access to the trust income and, in some cases, the principal for certain needs. However, the trust assets remain in the trust and are not considered part of the surviving spouse’s estate, thus avoiding estate taxes upon their death.

Selecting a trustee for a bypass trust is an essential decision. The trustee manages the trust assets and ensures that they are used according to the terms of the trust. It’s essential to choose someone who is trustworthy and understands the financial and legal responsibilities involved.

Setting up a bypass trust requires careful planning and drafting by an experienced estate planning attorney. The trust document must outline the terms of the trust, including how the assets will be managed and distributed. This process also involves making decisions about beneficiaries and trustees.

Bypass trusts are closely tied to tax law, particularly federal estate tax laws. How a bypass trust is structured can significantly impact the estate taxes owed. Understanding current tax laws and how they affect your estate plan is crucial.

A bypass trust is most beneficial for couples with substantial assets that exceed the federal estate tax exemption amount. It’s an effective way to reduce estate taxes and ensure that more of your estate goes to your beneficiaries rather than to tax payments.

The landscape of estate planning and tax law is constantly evolving. It’s important to stay informed about changes in the law and how they may impact your estate plan. A bypass trust remains a relevant and pivotal tool in many estate planning strategies.

If you’re considering a bypass trust as part of your estate plan, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential. They can help you understand if a bypass trust is the right option for your situation and guide you through the process of setting one up. If you would like to learn more about bypass trusts and estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

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Gift and Estate Tax Exemption Limits Increase for 2024

Gift and Estate Tax Exemption Limits Increase for 2024

The year 2024 will bring more reasons to be generous, since the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased the limits for gift and estate tax exemption amounts to their highest amounts ever. It’s good news to start the year with, reports the article “IRS Increases Gift and Estate Tax Exempt Limits—Here’s How Much You Can Give Without Paying” from yahoo! finance.

Those with large estates should always consider gifting during their lifetime to reduce taxes by using the annual gift and lifetime gift and estate tax exemptions. Right now, you may give an unlimited number of people up to $17,000 each in a single year without taxes. However, in 2024, this increases to $18,000 per person. For married couples starting in 2024, a gift of $36,000 can be made to any number of people, tax-free.

More good news: the IRS announced that the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption will increase to $13.61 million in 2024. A gift exceeding the annual limits won’t automatically prompt a gift tax. The difference is taken from the person’s lifetime exemption limit, and no taxes are owed. Your estate planning attorney will create a long-term strategy to use these exemptions to manage your estate tax liabilities.

Let’s say you were feeling generous and bought a friend a car for $20,000 in 2023. You would have exceeded the annual limit of $17,000 but wouldn’t owe any additional taxes. You’d use IRS Form 709 to report the gift and deduct $3,000 from your lifetime exemption of $12.92 million for this year. If you instead make the gift in 2024, you’d subtract $2,000 from your $13.61 million limit.

Gifts between American spouses are virtually unlimited. Couples have $24.84 million in estate tax exemptions, and going over this limit is only taxed upon the surviving spouse’s death.

However, a gift to a non-U.S. citizen, regardless of whether or not they are a U.S. resident, falls under different rules and is subject to an annual tax exclusion amount. The annual amount one may give to a spouse who is not a U.S. citizen increases to $185,000 in 2024 from $175,000 in 2023.

Something else to keep in mind—unless Congress acts, the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption is due to return to the pre-2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act level of $5.49 million on December 31, 2025. Your wisest move is to speak with your estate planning attorney about a strategic plan for gift-giving and planning to minimize estate tax liability before the change occurs. To take advantage of the gift and estate tax exemption limits increase for 2024, consult with you estate planning attorney. He or she will make sure you are reaping the benefits. If you would like to learn more about the gift tax, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: yahoo! finance (Nov. 14, 2023) “IRS Increases Gift and Estate Tax Exempt Limits—Here’s How Much You Can Give Without Paying”

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Tax Strategies combined with Estate Planning can Safeguard Assets

Tax Strategies combined with Estate Planning can Safeguard Assets

Business owners who want long-term financial success must navigate an intricate web of taxes, estate planning and asset protection. Pre-and post-transactional tax strategies, combined with estate planning, can safeguard assets, optimize tax positions and help strategically pass wealth along to future generations or charitable organizations, as reported in a recent article from Forbes, “Strategic Tax and Estate Planning For Business Owners.”

Pre-transactional tax planning includes reviewing the business entity structure to align it with tax objectives. For example, converting to a Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be a better structure if it is currently a solo proprietorship.

Implementing qualified retirement plans, like 401(k)s and defined benefit plans, gives tax advantages for owners and is attractive to employees. Contributions are typically tax-deductible, offering immediate tax savings.

There are federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives to reduce tax liability, all requiring careful research to be sure they are legitimate tax planning strategies. Overly aggressive practices can lead to audits, penalties, and reputational damage.

After a transaction, shielding assets becomes even more critical. Establishing a limited liability entity, like a Family Limited Partnership (FLP), may be helpful to protect assets.

Remember to keep personal and business assets separate to avoid putting asset protection efforts at risk. Review and update asset protection strategies when there are changes in your personal or business life or new laws that may provide new opportunities.

Developing a succession plan is critical to ensure that the transition of a family business from one to the next. Be honest about family dynamics and individual capabilities. Start early and work with an experienced estate planning attorney to align the succession and tax plan with your overall estate plan.

Philanthropy positively impacts, establishes, or builds on an existing legacy and creates tax advantages. Donating appreciated assets, using charitable trusts, or creating a private foundation can all achieve personal goals while attaining tax benefits.

Estate taxes can erode the value of wealth when transferring it to the next generation. Gifting, trusts, or life insurance are all means of minimizing estate taxes and preserving wealth. Your estate planning attorney will know about estate tax exemption limits and changes coming soon. They will advise you about gifting assets during your lifetime, using annual gift exclusions, and determine if lifetime gifts should be used to generate estate tax benefits. Smart tax strategies combined with estate planning can safeguard assets for generations. If you would like to read more about tax and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Sep. 28, 2023) “Strategic Tax and Estate Planning For Business Owners”

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Tools to Minimize or Avoid Estate Taxes

Tools to Minimize or Avoid Estate Taxes

The tax cuts of 2017 temporarily doubled the amount individuals could give away without paying taxes. However, those cuts are due to expire in 2026, pushing well-to-do Americans to move fast, says a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, “The Moves Wealthy Families are Making to Skirt Estate Taxes.” According to recently published stats from the Internal Revenue Service, wealth transfer began to escalate in 2021, with more than $182.6 billion given away. Nearly $100 billion went into trusts, some of which can last for generations. A total of roughly $14.8 went to charity. There are tools available to minimize or avoid estate taxes.

For Americans with a net worth over $10 million, it’s urgent to consider a range of moves before these tax cuts expire. There are a number of options, from simple gifts to heirs to setting up complex dynasty trusts to protect wealth over generations. The macabre alternative is to die before these cuts expire.

The $10 million figure in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was indexed for inflation. For 2023, the combined gift and estate tax exemption is $12.9 million per individual, or $25.84 million per married couple. This is the amount you may give away during your life or at death tax-free.

Next year, the amount will be adjusted to $13.61 million. For 2025, it may be as high as $14 million per person. But in 2026, it will drop by half to about $7 million.

The tax cuts expire after December 31, 2025. Anyone facing an estate tax bill who hasn’t made any preparations will likely have a somber New Year’s Eve.

A couple who transfers their full exemption amount of $28 million by 2025, before the law sunsets, will benefit from $5.6 million in tax savings, if they die in 2026. If they make a gift to grandchildren, skipping a generation, there would be nearly $9 million in tax savings.

These tax savings might become significantly larger over time. The appreciation is exempt from the transfer tax system when money grows in trusts. Therefore, if the trust value goes up to $100 million at the time of death, the family could save $40 million in estate taxes at the current 40% rate. This is just the federal tax savings. There are also state estate-tax savings in states like New York that continue to levy their own estate taxes.

According to UBS and Credit Suisse’s global wealth report, about 1.5 million Americans have a $10 million to $50 million net worth, and nearly 125,000 worth even more.

Direct gifts of cash or securities are the simplest way to make gifts to reduce your estate. The limit on annual tax-free gifts is $17,000 for 2023. It is expected to increase to $18,000 in 2024. Anyone can make tax-free gifts of up to $17,000 to an unlimited number of people. These gifts don’t count against the larger $12.92 million combined gift and estate tax exemption. Gifts made over $17,000 require reporting to the IRS using Form 709.

Making gifts to a dynasty trust can preserve more wealth for children. The trust removes the assets from both your estate and your children’s estates, benefiting children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Trusts also offer asset protection. If assets are given to children directly, and they are sued or divorced, they could lose some or all of their assets. If gifts are made to a trust, it’s harder for a creditor to go after assets in the trust.

There are tools available to minimize or avoid estate taxes. Do a careful analysis with your estate planning attorney before you design a gifting program. Make sure that you have enough to maintain your lifestyle. There are instances where people are so eager to gift their assets they don’t plan for the impact of inflation or volatile markets. If you would like to learn more about estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 19, 2023) “The Moves Wealthy Families are Making to Skirt Estate Taxes”

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The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 5

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 9 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 9 is out now!

All good musicians eventually have a Greatest Hits album. We’ve got one too!

We send our blog out most business days and we track which blog entries are the most popular. The posts we did on the new tax rules regarding “Grantor Trusts” and our article on “How to Leave Assets to Minors” were the BIG Winners. Given how popular each of the posts were, we have dedicated an entire episode of our podcast to them.

In this edition of The Estate of the Union, Brad Wiewel expands on both of these topics in a way that makes them a bit easier to understand and perhaps implement.

 

 

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 9 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the links below to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season 2|Episode 4 – How To Give Yourself a Charitable Gift is out now!

 

Texas Trust Law 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. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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Estate Tax Exemptions available for Married Couples

Estate Tax Exemptions available for Married Couples

Estate tax avoidance and mitigation are central considerations for financial security for surviving spouses. Estate tax exemptions are available for married couples to help ensure a surviving spouse is cared for. According to a recent article from The National Law Review, “Basic Estate Tax Planning for Married Couples: Opportunities For Use Of Estate Tax Exemptions,” the first spouse may leave property of unlimited value to the surviving spouse without incurring any estate tax upon the death of the first spouse. This unlimited marital deduction shields assets from estate taxes and helps support the surviving spouse. Assets can be distributed directly to the surviving spouse or through an indirect transfer to a qualifying trust for the surviving spouse’s benefit.

Most couples use trusts for asset protection, most commonly for the preservation of assets for children from a prior marriage and asset management help for the surviving spouse. The marital deduction is a valuable estate tax avoidance tool for married couples.

However, estate tax law is not generous for non-spouse beneficiaries. Legislation passed in 2013 allowed individuals to leave assets totaling $5 million in value (indexed to inflation since 2011) to non-spouse, non-charitable beneficiaries and then doubled this amount following the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to $10 million. However, if additional legislation is not passed before the sunset date of January 1, 2026, this amount will be cut in half.

In 2013, Congress made the portability of a spouse’s estate tax exemption permanent. This allows the surviving spouse to capture and use the first decedent spouse’s remaining estate tax exemption and the surviving spouse’s own exemption. To capture this estate tax exemption, an estate tax return must be filed in a timely manner after the death of the first spouse.

If spouses have a total estate exceeding available exemptions, they may use what is known as the “Credit Shelter Trust Planning” or “Optimal Marital Deduction Planning.” A trust is established, funded with assets of the first spouse to die, to use the spouse’s estate tax exemption. Assets in the trust are available to the surviving spouse for life but are not included in the survivor’s taxable estate upon their death. The goal benefits the surviving spouse and reduces any estate tax to maximize benefits for the children and grandchildren.

Another frequently used tool is the “disclaimer” plan, which allows the survivor to move certain assets into a trust for the survivor’s benefit rather than receiving assets directly. For married couples with estates valued at less than their available estate tax exemptions, a disclaimer plan provides the “all to spouse” plan and the option to implement a tax-advantaged trust. All assets are left to the survivor; then, based on the value of the first spouse’s estate, the surviving spouse may choose to disclaim the first spouse’s assets and divert them to a tax-advantaged trust.

Married couples should take advantage of the estate tax exemptions available to them to help protect a surviving spouse financially. It must be noted that there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan for married couples who wish to care for their surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren. It’s important to understand the basic estate tax avoidance or mitigation tools to create an estate plan to consider the couple’s planning goals and values. An experienced estate planning attorney can create a comprehensive estate plan to suit each family’s needs. If you would like to learn more about the estate tax, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The National Law Review (June 24, 2023) “Basic Estate Tax Planning for Married Couples: Opportunities For Use Of Estate Tax Exemptions”

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LLCs can be a useful Tool in your Estate Planning

LLCs can be a useful Tool in your Estate Planning

LLCs can be a useful tool in your estate planning. Limited liability companies, or LLCs, are used in estate planning to achieve estate tax savings and consolidate asset management, according to a recent article, “Estate Planning With Limited Liability Companies: Transfers of Business Interests as a Planning Opportunity,” from The National Law Review.

In many cases, the LLC is used as a business entity to facilitate gifting or transfers to children, often at discounted values, reducing the value of the donor’s assets, ultimately subject to gift and estate taxation. There are also non-tax benefits, as a properly structured LLC insulates owners from liability and provides an organizational control mechanism.

As a “manager-managed” entity, the management functions and authority over the LLC rests in designated or elected managers, as opposed to owners, also known as “members.” Separating management from ownership transfers some of the asset’s economic benefits, while retaining control over operations. Limiting managerial or voting rights also justifies using valuation discounts for the membership interests who lack control over the company, presenting a tax-planning opportunity.

An LLC offers several benefits:

  • A streamlined method of transferring ownership
  • Creating a structure for centralized management, control, and succession
  • Preserving family ownership through rights of purchase and first refusal
  • Establishing procedures to resolve internal family disputes
  • Gaining protection of LLC assets from claims asserted against owners
  • Gaining protection of owner assets from claims asserted against the LLC

Significant tax savings can be achieved through lifetime gifts of LLC interests because of valuation discounting and removing future appreciation from the donor’s estate. In addition, if transfers are made to trusts for the children, it may be possible to achieve even further benefits, including increased protection against lawsuits, dissolving marriages, and future estate taxes.

These are complex transactions requiring the knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney and careful vetting by tax advisors. One downside to lifetime gifting: unlike assets passing as part of an estate, gifted assets do not receive a basis adjustment for income tax purposes at the time of the donor’s death. Another downside is that the donor generally cannot benefit economically from the assets after they are transferred. However, if the donor is concerned about divesting themselves of the transferred assets and the income, the transfer could be structured as a sale rather than a gift to provide increased cash flow back to the transferor.

A final note: if the LLC is not operated consistently with the entity’s non-tax business purposes, it may be vulnerable to attack by the IRS or third parties, undermining its benefits for estate tax planning and limited liability protection. The entity must be managed to support its valid business purpose as a legitimate enterprise. Remember, LLCs can be a useful tool for your estate planning, but only if it is properly created and maintained. If you would like to learn more about LLCs and business planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The National Law Review (May 19, 2023) “Estate Planning With Limited Liability Companies: Transfers of Business Interests as a Planning Opportunity”

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‘When’ play Major role in Retirement

‘When’ play Major role in Retirement

When do you plan to retire? When will you take Social Security? When must you start withdrawing money from your retirement savings? “When” plays a major role in retirement, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled, “In Retirement, Many Crucial Questions Start With the Word ‘When’.” That’s because so many financial decisions related to retirement are much more dependent on timing than on the long-term performance of an investment.

Too many people approaching retirement — or are already there — don’t adjust how they think about investing to account for timing’s critical role. “When” plays a major role in the new strategy. Let’s look at a few reasons why:

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Many people use traditional IRAs or 401(k) accounts to save for retirement. These are tax-deferred accounts, meaning you don’t pay taxes on the income you put into the accounts each year. However, you’ll pay income tax when you begin withdrawing money in retirement. When you reach age 73, the federal government requires you to withdraw a certain percentage each year, whether you need the money or not. A way to avoid RMDs is to start converting your tax-deferred accounts to a Roth account way before you reach 73. You pay taxes when you make the conversion. However, your money then grows tax-free, and there is no requirement about how much you withdraw or when.

Using Different Types of Assets. In retirement, your focus needs to be on how to best use your assets, not just how they’re invested. For example, one option might be to save the Roth for last, so that it has more time to grow tax-free money for you. However, in determining what order you should tap your retirement funds, much of your decision depends on your situation.

Claiming Social Security. On average, Social Security makes up 30% of a retiree’s income. When you claim your Social Security affects how big those monthly checks are. You can start drawing money from Social Security as early as age 62. However, your rate is reduced for the rest of your life. If you delay until your full retirement age, there’s no limit to how much you can make. If you wait to claim your benefit past your full retirement age, your benefit will continue to grow until you hit 70.

Wealth Transfer. If you plan to leave something to your heirs and want to limit their taxes on that inheritance as much as possible, then “when” can come into play again. For instance, using the annual gift tax exclusion, you could give your beneficiaries some of their inheritance before you die. In 2023, you can give up to $17,000 to each individual without the gift being taxable. A married couple can give $17,000 each.

Take the time to discuss your retirement goals with your estate planning attorney. He or she will help you understand how the “when” in your planning plays a major role in retirement. If you would like to learn more about retirement planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 15, 2023) “In Retirement, Many Crucial Questions Start With the Word ‘When’”

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Consider Portability as a Solution for your Surviving Spouse

Consider Portability as a Solution for your Surviving Spouse

If you expect to have a large portion of your unused estate tax exemption remaining, you might consider portability as a solution for your surviving spouse. Portability is a process in which any unused estate tax exemption can be transferred from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse, according to a recent article from Ag Web, “Use Portability to Avoid a Potential Multi-Million Dollar Estate Mistake.”

What portability helps the surviving spouse to achieve is to put their assets in the best position to be transferred upon their death, to the next generation, with little or no estate taxes being owed.

In 2023, each spouse has a $12.92 million exemption from federal gift and estate taxes, but this high amount is set to drop about $6.6 million per person in 2026. Electing portability now will lock in the high exemption if a spouse dies before December 31, 2025, when the high exemption level ends.

The portability election does not happen automatically, and its critical to take this action, even if all assets were jointly owned and no taxes are owed when the first spouse dies. To elect portability, the surviving spouse must file form 706 Federal Estate Tax Return with the IRS.

Many financial advisors may not believe electing portability is necessary. However, it is. One estate planning attorney advises financial advisors and CPAs to obtain a written document affirming their decision from surviving spouses, if they decline to elect portability.

Portability is relatively recent to married farming couples. This is why many people in the agricultural sector may not be aware of it. An estate planning attorney can help the surviving spouse to file a Form 706. The value of assets may be estimated to the nearest quarter million dollars of value at the first spouse’s death.

Form 706 must be submitted to the IRS within nine months of the first spouses’ death. The deadline can be extended with the use of Form 4768 for an additional six months. However, if the surviving spouse misses the initial deadlines for filing, they can still elect portability up to five years from the date of their spouse’s death, by invoking “Relief under Revenue Procedure 2022-32.”

There were so many applications for extensions made to the IRS that in 2022, the change was made to give surviving spouses more flexibility in applying for portability.

Talk with your estate planning attorney to consider portability as a solution for your surviving spouse. If you would like to learn more about portability, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Ag Web (Jan. 30, 2023) “Use Portability to Avoid a Potential Multi-Million Dollar Estate Mistake.”

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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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