Category: Gift Tax

Tips to Reduce Size of your Taxable Estate

Tips to Reduce Size of your Taxable Estate

The current lifetime estate and gift tax exemption is set to be cut by half after 2025, unless Congress acts to extend it, which doesn’t seem likely in the current financial environment. There are tips to help reduce the size of your taxable estate, reported in a recent article “Smarter Ways To Make Estate Planning Gifts” from Forbes.

It’s generally better to give property than to give cash, especially investment property. Recipients are less likely to sell these gifts and spend the proceeds. It’s more likely that cash will be spent rather than invested for the long term. Investment property is almost always a better gift for the long term.

However, property gifts come with potential taxes. To help reduce the size of your taxable estate, make gifts of the correct properties. There are a few principals to follow.

Don’t give investment property with paper losses. The recipient of a gift of property gets the same tax basis in the property as the person making the gift. The appreciation occurring during the holding period is taxed when the gift recipient sells the property.

If the property didn’t appreciate when the owner had it, the beneficiary’s tax basis will be the lower of the owner’s basis and the current market value. When the investment lost value, the beneficiary reduces the basis to the current fair market value. The loss incurred for the owner won’t be deductible by anyone. There is no winner here. It is best for the owner to hold the loss property or sell it, so at least they can deduct the loss and gift the after-tax proceeds.

Give appreciated investment property after a price decline. This makes maximum use of the annual gift tax exclusion and minimizes the use of the giver’s lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. You can give more shares of a stock or mutual fund by making the gift when prices are lower.

Let’s say shares of a mutual fund were at $60—you could give 266.67 shares tax free under the annual gift tax exclusion ($17,000 in 2023). If the price dropped to $50, you could give 320 shares without exceeding the exclusion limit.

When the recipient holds the shares and the price recovers, they will have received more long-term wealth. The giver would not have incurred estate and gift taxes or used part of their lifetime exemption.

This is also an example of why families should consider gift giving throughout the year and not just at year’s end. An even better way: determine early in the year how much you intend to give, and then look for a good time during the year to maximize the tax-free value of the gift.

It’s good to give property most likely to appreciate in value. If the goal is to remove future appreciation from the estate, gift property you expect to appreciate. This also serves to maximize the wealth of loved ones, especially appreciated when the beneficiary is in a lower tax bracket. When the property is eventually sold, the beneficiary likely will pay capital gains taxes on the appreciation at a lower rate than the giver would. You pass on more after-tax wealth and reduce the family’s overall taxes.

Retain property if it has appreciated significantly. When it’s time to sell the property and the loved one is in the 0% capital gains tax bracket, it’s best to make a gift of the property and let them sell it. Even if the loved one is in the 10% capital gains tax bracket, this still make sense if you’re in the higher capital gains tax bracket. But there are some things to consider. If the gain pushes the recipient into a higher tax bracket and triggers higher taxes on all their income, it won’t be a welcome gift. If there’s no urgent need to sell the property, you can ensure a 0% capital gain by simply holding onto the investment.

Give income-generating assets. If you hold income-generating investments and you don’t need the income, consider giving those to family members in a lower tax bracket. This reduces taxes on the income and the recipient is also less likely to sell the asset to raise cash when it’s generating income.

Remember the Kiddie Tax. Heirs who are age 19 or under (or under 24 if they are full-time college students) are hit with their parents’ highest tax rate on investment income they earn above a certain amount, which was $2,300 in 2022. At this point, gifts of income-producing property create tax liabilities, not benefits.

These are just a few tips to help you reduce to size of your taxable estate. Work with your estate planning attorney to identify any additional tax reductions available. If you would like to learn more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Dec. 27, 2022) “Smarter Ways To Make Estate Planning Gifts”

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How Charitable Giving can Benefit the Giver

How Charitable Giving can Benefit the Giver

A charitable donation tax deduction feels good in a few ways. Not only do you feel good about giving to a good cause, but charitable giving can also benefit the giver. However, before you start writing checks or making online donations, you should know what rules to follow to ensure your good-hearted gifting is giving you tax deductions, explains the article “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving” from Kiplinger.

First, you’ll need to itemize to claim a charitable tax deduction. If you took the standard deduction on your 2020 or 2021 tax return, you could also claim up to $300 for cash donations to charity. This deduction wasn’t available to taxpayers who claimed itemized deductions on Schedule A. This deduction wasn’t extended past 2021, so you can’t claim a charitable donation tax deduction on your 2022 tax return. For 2022 and beyond, you’ll have to itemize if you want to write off gifts to charity.

If your standard deduction is a little higher than your itemized deduction, consolidate charitable deductions from the next few years into the current tax years, known as “bunching.” This lets you boost your itemized deductions for the current year, so they exceed your standard deduction amount. Consider using a Donor Advised Fund, where you can make one large contribution to a fund and deduct the entire amount as an itemized deduction in the year you make it. Just be sure your donations align with your estate plan.

How do you know what donations are deductible? Contributions of cash or property are generally deductible. If you donate property, the deduction is equal to the property’s fair market value. If you give appreciated property, you may have to reduce the fair market value by the amount of appreciation when calculating the deduction. If the property has decreased, your deduction is limited to the current fair market value.

There are certain requirements and limitations for charitable tax deductions. For gifts of $250 or more, you must have a written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of a cash donation and a description of any donated property, but not value, and whether or not you received any goods or services in return for your contribution. At certain valuation points, you’ll need to file certain forms and if you donate a car, boat, or airplane worth more than $5,000, you may need to have the property appraised also.

Just because your donation was used for a good cause doesn’t mean you can deduct it. Only contributions to certain charitable organizations are deductible. For instance, if a neighbor starts a Go Fund Me page, those donations, while greatly appreciated, are not tax deductible.

The IRS makes it easy to determine if any donations are tax deductible with the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on its website to find out if an organization is tax-exempt.

For seniors who are at least 70 ½ years old, you can transfer up to $100,000 directly from a traditional IRA to charity through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). The charitable donations made by eligible seniors via a QCD aren’t deducible. However, you can still save on taxes, since QCDs aren’t included in taxable income. Charitable giving can benefit the giver, but only if you have taken the time to plan accordingly. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

QCDs also count towards senior’s Required Minimum Distribution, without adding to your adjusted gross income.

Reference: Kiplinger (Nov. 28, 2022) “Charitable Donation Tax Deductions: An Additional Reward for the Gift of Giving”

 

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Unified Tax Credit is Central to Estate Planning

Unified Tax Credit is Central to Estate Planning

Most people know they pay taxes on earnings and when money grows. However, there are also taxes when money or other assets are given away or passed to another after death. The unified tax credit is central to estate planning, says a recent article titled “What Are The Unified Credit’s Gift Tax Exclusions?” from yahoo!.

First, what is the Unified Tax Credit? Sometimes called the “unified transfer tax,” the unified tax credit combines two separate lifetime tax exemptions. The first is the gift tax exclusion, which concerns assets given to other individuals during your lifetime. The other is the estate tax exemption, which is the value of an estate not subject to taxes when it is inherited. Your estate or heirs will only pay taxes on the portion of assets exceeding this threshold.

The unified tax credit is an exemption applied both to taxable gifts given during your lifetime and the estate you plan to leave to others.

If you would rather gift with warm hands while living, you can pull from this unified credit and avoid paying additional taxes on monetary gifts in the year you gave them. However, if you’d rather keep your assets and distribute them after death, you can save the unified credit for after death. You can also use the unified tax credit to do a little of both.

The unified tax credit changes regularly, depending on estate and gift tax regulations. The gift and estate tax exemptions doubled in 2017, so the unified credit right now sits at $12.06 million per person in 2022. This will expire at the end of 2025, when credits will drop down to lower levels, unless new legislation passes.

Up to 2025, a married couple can give away as much as $24.12 million without having to pay additional taxes. The recipient of this generous gift would not have to pay additional taxes either. If you consider the rate of estate taxes—40%—optimizing this unified tax credit means a lot more money stays in your loved one’s pockets.

How does it work? Let’s say you have four children and each one is going to receive a taxable gift of $500,000. You can pull from your unified tax credit the same year you give these gifts. This way, there’s no need for you to pay gift taxes on the $2 million.

However, this generosity will reduce your lifetime unified credit from $12.06 million to $10.06 million. If you die and leave an estate worth $11.5 million, your heirs will need to pay estate taxes on the $1.44 million difference.

At current estate tax rates, roughly $700,000 would go to the IRS, or more, depending upon your state!

The unified tax credit doesn’t take into account or apply to annual gift exclusions. These annual exclusions allow you to give away even more money during your lifetime and it doesn’t count against your unified limit. As of 2022, taxpayers may give $16,000 per year to any individual as a tax-exempt gift. You can give $16,000 to as many people as you wish each year without being subject to gift taxes. This is a simple way to gift with warm hands without paying gift taxes or reducing the unified limit. The annual gift is per person, so if you are married, you and your spouse may give, $32,000 per year to as many people as you want and the gift is excluded.

Taxable gifts exceeding the annual gift exclusion amount must be properly documented and should be done in concert with your overall estate plan. They offer great tax advantages, and perhaps more importantly, provide the giver with the joy of seeing their wealth translate into a better life for their loved ones. The unified tax credit is central to estate planning so make the time to discuss your options with your estate planning attorney. If you are interested in learning more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: yahoo! (Nov. 18, 2022) “What Are The Unified Credit’s Gift Tax Exclusions?”

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SLAT is Increasingly Popular for Married Couples

SLAT is Increasingly Popular for Married Couples

The most common estate planning technique used in 2020-2021, according to a recent article from Think Advisor, was the Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT). The SLAT has become increasingly popular for married couples at or above the current estate planning exemption level, as described in the article “9 Reasons This Popular Trust Isn’t Just for the Super-Wealthy.”

SLATs allow couples to move assets out of their estates and, in most cases, out of the reach of both creditors and claimants. Each spouse can still access the assets, making the SLAT a valuable tool for retirement.

In the past, SLATs were not used as often for clients with $1 million to $10 million in net worth. However, the SLAT accomplishes several objectives: optimizing taxes, protecting assets from creditors and addressing concerns related to aging.

Lock in Estate Tax Exemptions Among Uncertainty. SLATs are a good way to secure estate tax exemptions. Various proposals to slash the current estate tax exemptions before the sunset date (see below) makes SLATs an attractive solution.

Potential Restrictions to Grantor Trusts. There has been some talk in Washington and the Treasury about restricting Grantor Trusts. The SLAT eliminates concern about any future changes to these trusts.

Upcoming Change in Estate, Gift and GST Exemptions. When the 2017 tax overhaul expires in 2026, the gift, estate and generation skipping trust exemption will be cut in half. Now is the time to maximize those exemptions.

A Possible Planning Tidal Wave. There may be a big movement to act as 2026 draws closer and SLATs become a tool of choice. Before the wave hits and Congress reacts, it would be better to have assets protected in advance.

SLATs Work Well for Married Couples. Each spouse contributes assets to a SLAT. The other spouse is named as a beneficiary. The assets are removed from the taxable estate, securing the exemption before 2026 and assets are protected from claimants and creditors.

You Might Meet the Estate Tax Threshold in the Future. Even if your current estate doesn’t meet the high threshold of today, if it might reach $6 million in 2026, having a SLAT will add protection for the future.

Income Tax Benefits. A trustee can distribute funds and income to a beneficiary in a no-tax state, saving state tax income tax, or if the trust may be formed in a no-tax state and possibly avoid the grantor’s high home state income tax.

Asset Protection Planning. Many people don’t think about asset protection until it’s too late. By starting now, when assets are below $10 million, the asset protection can grow as wealth grows.

Shrinking the Need for Other Trusts. Depending on their financial situation, a couple may be able to use a SLAT trust and avoid the need for other trusts requiring annual gifts and Crummey powers. The SLAT may also eliminate the need to have a trust for their children.

While SLATs are becoming increasingly popular for married couples, it is important that you speak with your estate planning attorney to learn if a SLAT is appropriate for your family, now and in the near and distant future. These are complex legal instruments, requiring skilled professional help in assessing their value to your estate. If you would like to learn more about SLATs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Think Advisor (Nov. 16, 2022) “9 Reasons This Popular Trust Isn’t Just for the Super-Wealthy”

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Protect the Family Business for the Next Generation

Protect the Family Business for the Next Generation

The reality and finality of death is uncomfortable to think about. However, people need to plan for death, unless they want to leave their families a mess instead of a blessing. In a family-owned business, this is especially vital, according to a recent article, “All in the Family—Transition Strategies for Family Businesses” from Bloomberg Law. There are strategies you can use to protect the family business for the next generation.

The family business is often the family’s largest financial asset. The business owner typically doesn’t have much liquidity outside of the business itself. Federal estate taxes upon death need special consideration. Every person has an estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption of $12.06 million, although these historically high levels may revert to prior levels in 2026. The amount exceeding the exemption may be taxed at 40%, making planning critical.

Assuming an estate tax liability is created upon the death of the business owner, how will the family pay the tax? If the spouse survives the business owner, they can use the unlimited marital deduction to defer federal estate tax liabilities, until the survivor dies. If no advance planning has been done prior to the death of the first spouse to die, it would be wise to address it while the surviving spouse is still living.

Certain provisions in the tax code may mitigate or prevent the need to sell the business to raise funds to pay the estate tax. One law allows the executor to pay part or all of the estate tax due over 15 years (Section 6166), provided certain conditions are met. This may be appropriate. However, it is a weighty burden for an extended period of time. Planning in advance would be better.

Business owners with a charitable inclination could use charitable trusts or entities as part of a tax-efficient business transition plan. This includes the Charitable Remainder Trust, or CRT. If the business owner transfers equity interest in the business to a CRT before a liquidity event, no capital gains would be generated on the sale of the business, since the CRT is generally exempt from federal income tax. Income from the sale would be deferred and recognized, since the CRT made distributions to the business owner according to the terms of the trust.

At the end of the term, the CRT’s remaining assets would pass to the selected charitable remainderman, which might be a family-established and managed private foundation.

Family businesses usually appreciate over time, so owners need to plan to shift equity out of the taxable estate. One option is to use a combination of gifting and selling business interests to an intentionally defective grantor trust. Any appreciation after the date of transfer may be excluded from the taxable estate upon death for purposes of determining federal estate tax liabilities.

For some business owners, establishing their business as a family limited partnership or limited liability company makes the most sense. Over time, they may sell or gift part of the interest to the next generation, subject to the discounts available for a transfer. An appraiser will need to be hired to issue a valuation report on the transferred interests in order to claim any possible discounts after recapitalizing the ownership interest.

The ultimate disposition of the family business is one of the biggest decisions a business owner must make, and there’s only one chance to get it right. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney and don’t procrastinate in protecting the family business for the next generation. Succession planning takes time, so the sooner the process begins, the better. If you would like to learn more about succession planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Bloomberg Law (Nov. 9, 2022) “All in the Family—Transition Strategies for Family Businesses”

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529 Plans are a Strategy for Estate Planning

529 Plans are a Strategy for Estate Planning

Parents and grandparents use 529 education savings plans to help with the cost of college expenses. However, 529 plans are a helpful strategy for estate planning, according to a recent article, “Reap The Recently-Created Planning Advantages Of 529 Plans” from Forbes.

There’s no federal income tax deduction for contributions to a 529 account. However, 35 states provide a state income tax benefit—a credit or deduction—for contributions, as long as the account is in the state’s plan. Six of those 35 states provide income tax benefits for contributions to any 529 plan, regardless of the state it’s based in.

Contributions also receive federal estate and gift tax benefits. A contribution qualifies for the annual gift tax exclusion, which is $16,000 per beneficiary for gifts made in 2022. Making a contribution up to this amount avoids gift taxes and, even better, doesn’t reduce your lifetime estate and gift tax exemption amount.

Benefits don’t stop there. If it works with the rest of your estate and tax planning, in one year, you can use up to five years’ worth of annual gift tax exclusions with 529 contributions. You may contribute up to $80,000 per beneficiary without triggering gift taxes or reducing your lifetime exemption.

You can, of course, make smaller amounts without incurring gift taxes. However, if this size gift works with your estate plan, you can choose to use the annual exclusion for a grandchild for the next five years. Making this move can remove a significant amount from your estate for federal estate tax purposes.

While the money is out of your estate, you still maintain some control over it. You choose among the investment options offered by the 529 plan. You also have the ability to change the beneficiary of the account to another family member or even to yourself, if it will be used for qualified educational purposes.

The money can be withdrawn from a 529 account if it is needed or if it becomes clear the beneficiary won’t use it for educational purposes. The accumulated income and gains will be taxed and subject to a 10% penalty but the original contribution is not taxed or penalized. It may be better to change the beneficiary if another family member is more likely to need it.

As long as they remain in the account, investment income and gains earned compound tax free. Distributions are also tax free, as long as they are used to pay for qualified education expenses.

In recent years, the definition of qualified educational expenses has changed. When these accounts were first created, many did not permit money to be spent on computers and internet fees. Today, they can be used for computers, room, and board, required books and supplies, tuition and most fees.

The most recent expansion is that 529 accounts can be used to pay for a certain amount of student debt. However, if it is used to pay interest on a loan, the interest is not tax deductible.

Finally, a 2021 law made it possible for a grandparent to set up a 529 account for a grandchild and distributions from the 529 account are not counted as income to the grandchild. This is important when students are applying for financial aid; before this law changed, the funds in the 529 accounts would reduce the student’s likelihood of getting financial aid.

Two factors to consider: which state’s 529 is most advantageous to you and how it can be used as part of a strategy for your estate planning. If you would like to learn more about 529 plans, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Oct. 27, 2022) “Reap The Recently-Created Planning Advantages Of 529 Plans”

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A Few Ways to Transfer Home to Your Children

A Few Ways to Transfer Home to Your Children

There are a few ways to transfer your home to your children. Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “2 Clever Ways to Gift Your Home to Your Kids” explains that the most common way to transfer a property is for the children to inherit it when the parent passes away. An outright gift of the home to their child may mean higher property taxes in states that treat the gift as a sale. It’s also possible to finance the child’s purchase of the home or sell the property at a discount, known as a bargain sale.

These last two options might appear to be good solutions because many adult children struggle to buy a home at today’s soaring prices. However, crunch the numbers first.

If you sell your home to your child for less than what it’s worth, the IRS considers the difference between the fair market value and the sale price a gift. Therefor., if you sell a $1 million house to your child for $600,000, that $400,000 discount is deemed a gift. You won’t owe federal gift tax on the $400,000 unless your total lifetime gifts exceed the federal estate and gift tax exemption of $12.06 million in 2022, However, you must still file a federal gift tax return on IRS Form 709.

Using the same example, let’s look at the federal income tax consequences. If the parents are married, bought the home years ago and have a $200,000 tax basis in it, when they sell the house at a bargain price to the child, the tax basis gets split proportionately. Here, 40% of the basis ($80,000) is allocated to the gift and 60% ($120,000) to the sale. To determine the gain or loss from the sale, the sale-allocated tax basis is subtracted from the sale proceeds.

In our illustration, the parent’s $480,000 gain ($600,000 minus $120,000) is non-taxable because of the home sale exclusion. Homeowners who owned and used their principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain ($500,000 if married) from their income.

The child isn’t taxed on the gift portion. However, unlike inherited property, gifted property doesn’t get a stepped-up tax basis. In a bargain sale, the child gets a lower tax basis in the home, in this case $680,000 ($600,000 plus $80,000). If the child were to buy the home at its full $1 million value, the child’s tax basis would be $1 million.

Another way to transfer your home to your children is to combine your bargain sale with a loan to your child, by issuing an installment note for the sale portion. This helps a child who can’t otherwise get third-party financing and allows the parents to charge lower interest rates than a lender, while generating some monthly income.

Be sure that the note is written, signed by the parents and child, includes the amounts and dates of monthly payments along with a maturity date and charges an interest rate that equals or exceeds the IRS’s set interest rate for the month in which the loan is made. Go through the legal steps of securing the note with the home, so your child can deduct interest payments made to you on Schedule A of Form 1040. You’ll have to pay tax on the interest income you receive from your child.

You can also make annual gifts by taking advantage of your annual $16,000 per person gift tax exclusion. If you do this, keep the gifts to your child separate from the note payments you get. With the annual per-person limit, you won’t have to file a gift tax return for these gifts. If you would like to learn more about managing property in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 23, 2021) “2 Clever Ways to Gift Your Home to Your Kids”

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IRS Announced New Lifetime and Gift Tax Exemptions

IRS Announced New Lifetime and Gift Tax Exemptions

There’s big news from the IRS for people who use gifting as part of their estate planning. The IRS announced new lifetime and gift tax exemptions. The annual exclusion increased from $16,000 in 2022 to $17,000 in gifts in 2023, without needing to use up lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion or paying a gift tax. The article “Lifetime Estate and Gift Tax Exemption Will Hit $12.92 Million in 2023” from Forbes provides details.

The “unified credit,” aka the lifetime estate and gift tax exemption, will also jump to $12.92 million in 2023, up from $12.06 million in 2022. Couples may combine their exemption, so a wealthy couple making gifts in 2023 can pass along $25.84 million.

Here is another way to look at what this change means. If you’ve already maxed out on non-taxable gifts, you can give an extra $1.72 million to heirs in 2023, in addition to making $34,000 per couple ($17,000 x two) in annual gifts to every child, grandchild, siblings, niece or nephew or anyone you’re feeling generous towards.

In addition to making these generous $17,000 gifts, you can also pay an unlimited amount towards someone else’s tuition or medical expenses without any impact to your lifetime exemption. An important detail: the payments must be made directly to the school or the medical provider.

The estate tax is still 40%, but the $12.92 million per-person lifetime exemption is just one of many strategies used to transfer wealth. Others include the use of GRATs and other trusts to leverage the exemption. The bear market provides numerous planning opportunities.

Keep in mind that, while the IRS announced new lifetime and gift tax exemptions for 2023, the $12.92 million exemption is not forever. Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the lifetime exemption will sunset in the start of 2026, and the decrease will be more than half its current value.

Whether the estate and gift tax exemption will actually drop so dramatically depends on the politics of Congress and the White House and the budget and deficit pressures of the year. An early version of the Build Back Better proposal would have cut the exemption in half but did not win enough votes to pass.

Another reason to make these lifetime gifts sooner rather than later? As of 2022, seventeen states and the District of Columbia still have state estate taxes and/or inheritance taxes. For wealthy families, these exemptions can make a big difference in estate tax liabilities. If you would like to learn more about tax exemptions in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Oct. 18, 2022) “Lifetime Estate and Gift Tax Exemption Will Hit $12.92 Million in 2023”

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What Is Upstream Planning?

What Is Upstream Planning?

What is upstream planning? Estate planning with an eye to a future inheritance, known as “upstream planning,” can be especially important where families pass significant wealth from generation to generation. Knowing these details in advance can have a big impact on deciding on how to manage the heir’s own assets, as explained in the article “Expecting an Inheritance? Consider Coordinating Your Estate Plan with Your Parents’” from Kiplinger.

What happens when information is kept private? In one example, a patriarch refused to share any details, despite having children who had succeeded on their own and didn’t really need their inheritances. The family was left with an eight figure estate tax bill.

Clear and open discussions make sense. If a person has an estate large enough to need to pay federal estate taxes, inheriting more will add to their heir’s tax burdens. Parents may choose to leave assets to heirs through a trust. Money in a trust belongs to the trust, so in addition to tax benefits, the trust is a good way to protect assets from creditors, litigation, or divorce.

Trusts are also used to take advantage of the GST—generation skipping tax exemption. The executor of the parents’ estates can apply their GST exemption to the trust, which will not be taxed when they are distributed or passed to grandchildren, even if the grandchild is a beneficiary of the trust.

Business considerations also come into play. If a couple built and grew a business now being run by their granddaughter, and the grandsons have had little or no involvement, their wishes should be clarified: do they want their granddaughter to be the sole heir? Or do they want the grandsons to receive cash or other assets or any shares of the business?

Talking about multigenerational wealth early and often provides benefits to all concerned. The more money a family has, the more it makes sense to have those conversations and not only from an estate tax perspective. Those who created the wealth can use upstream planning as a way to start conversations about their success, family values and hopes for how heirs and future generations will benefit.

In some families, these conversations won’t happen because they think it’s too private or don’t want their children and grandchildren to feel they don’t need to work hard to become responsible citizens.

Communicating and coordinating are vital to success. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you understand what upstream planning is and provide guidance; having seen what happens when upstream planning occurs and when it does not.

If you are interested in learning more about upstream planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Oct. 4, 2022) “Expecting an Inheritance? Consider Coordinating Your Estate Plan with Your Parents’”

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ILITS are a Common Planning Tool

ILITS are a Common Planning Tool

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs) are a common planning tool. However, buying the policy at the wrong time, leaving out Crummey withdrawal rights and ignoring administrative costs are commonly made mistakes. Being aware of these snares is important to make the ILIT effective, says a recent article titled “Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts in Estate Planning: Common Pitfalls” from Think Advisor.

Purchasing a new policy outside of the ILIT is a commonly made error. If you purchase a new life insurance policy and then transfer it to the ILIT, the death benefit will be included in your estate for estate tax purposes if you die within three years of the transfer. This undoes any estate tax advantages of the insurance policy and the trust.

IRS Section 2035 causes estate tax inclusion for anyone who transfers or otherwise gives up power over a life insurance policy within three years of death. However, there are ways to address this. If you first establish and fund the ILIT first, so the ILIT is the entity purchasing the policy directly, the death benefit is excluded from your estate regardless of how long you live after the purchase date.

Another error concerns the “Crummy Protocol.” Unless or until the premiums on a life insurance policy are fully paid or are self-sustaining through a draw on the cash surrender value, the insured must make gifts to the ILIT to pay for the premiums. People often like to use their annual gift tax exclusion to make contributions. However, to qualify the gifts for the annual gift tax exclusion, the beneficiaries of the ILIT must have the right to withdraw certain amounts transferred into the ILIT.

Failing to include the required withdrawal rights may eliminate the ability to offset gifts by the annual exclusion right. Even if the ILIT includes Crummey withdrawal rights, you won’t be able to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion if the beneficiaries are not informed of their withdrawal rights each time an eligible contribution is made to the ILIT.

Your estate planning attorney will advise you as to how this occurs from a procedural perspective. While an ILIT is a common planning tool, you’ll want them to review it before it is signed to confirm it includes Crummey withdrawal rights and to help you establish procedures for providing the requisite notice and waiting the required period each time a gift is made.

Lastly, ILITs often have limited assets since they may only be funded with the insurance policy and the amount needed to pay the premiums. Therefore, if the ILIT has any administrative expenses, like accounting, legal or trustee funds, there may be insufficient assets in the ILIT to pay them.

If you pay the expenses directly, they will be considered as making a gift for gift tax purposes, because you will be deemed to have first transferred to the ILIT any amounts paid on its behalf. Avoid this issue by funding your ILIT with the necessary money to pay premiums and administrative costs. If the class of beneficiaries holding Crummey withdrawal rights is broad enough, this may be done solely through annual exclusion gifts. If you would like to learn more about ILITS, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Think Advisor (Sep. 29, 2022) “Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts in Estate Planning: Common Pitfalls”

Photo by Marcus Aurelius

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

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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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