Category: Gift Tax

Estate Planning should include Consideration of Income Tax

Estate Planning should include Consideration of Income Tax

While estate taxes may only be of concern for mega-rich Americans now, in a relatively short time, the federal exemption rate is scheduled to drop precipitously. Estate planning underway now should include consideration of income tax issues, especially basis, according to a recent article titled “Be Mindful of Income Tax in Estate Planning, Particularly Basis” from National Law Journal.

Because of these upcoming changes, plans and trusts put into effect under current law may no longer efficiently work for income tax and tax basis issues.

Planning to avoid taxes has become less critical in recent years, when the federal estate tax exemption is $10 million per taxpayer indexed to inflation. However, the new tax laws have changed the focus from estate tax planning to coming tax planning and more specifically, to “basis” planning. Ignore this at your peril—or your heirs may inherit a tax disaster.

“Basis” is an oft-misunderstood concept used to determine the amount of taxable income resulting when an asset is sold. The amount of taxable income realized is equal to the difference between the value you received at the sale of the asset minus your basis in the asset.

There are three key rules for how basis is determined:

Purchased assets: the buyer’s basis is the investment in the asset—the amount paid at the time of purchase. Here’s where the term “cost basis” comes from

Gifts: The recipient’s basis in the gift property is generally equal to the donor’s basis in the property. The giver’s basis is viewed as carrying over to the recipient. This is where the term “carry over basis” comes from, when referring to the basis of an asset received by gift.

Inherited Assets: The basis in inherited property is usually set to the fair market value of the asset on the date of the decedent’s death. Any gains or losses after this date are not realized. The heir could conceivably sell the asset immediately and not pay income taxes on the sale.

The adjustment to basis for inherited assets is usually called “stepped up basis.”

Basis planning requires you to review each asset on its own, to consider the expected future appreciation of the asset and anticipated timeline for disposing the asset. Tax rates imposed on income realized when an asset is sold vary based on the type of asset. There is an easy one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to basis planning.

Estate planning requires adjustments over time, especially in light of tax law changes. This is why estate planning should include consideration of income tax issues. Speak with your estate planning attorney, if your estate plan was created more than five years ago. Many of those strategies and tools may or may not work in light of the current and near-future tax environment. If you would like to learn more about tax issues related to estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: National Law Review (July 22, 2022) “Be Mindful of Income Tax in Estate Planning, Particularly Basis”

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Dynasty Trusts offer more Control over Assets

Dynasty Trusts offer more Control over Assets

Trusts are the Swiss Army Knife of estate planning, perfect tools for specific directions on how your assets should be managed while you are living and after you have passed. A recent article titled “This Trust Can Help You Create a Financial Dynasty from Yahoo! finance explains how qualified perpetual trusts, also known as dynasty trusts, can offer more control over assets than other types of trusts.

What is a Dynasty Trust?

Called a Qualified Perpetual Trust or a Dynasty Trust, this trust is designed to let the grantor pass assets along to beneficiaries in perpetuity. Technically speaking, a dynasty trust could last for a century. They don’t end until several years after the death of the last surviving beneficiary.

Why Would You Want a Trust to Last 100 Years?

Perpetual trusts are often used to keep family wealth out of probate for a long time. During probate, the court reviews the will, approves the executor and reviews an inventory of assets. Probate can be time consuming and costly. the will and all the information it contains becomes part of the public record, meaning that anyone can find out all about your wealth.

A trust is created by an experienced estate planning attorney. Assets are then transferred into the trust and beneficiaries are named. There should be at least one beneficiary and a secondary beneficiary, in case the first beneficiary predeceases the second. A trustee is named to oversee the assets. The language of the trust is where you set the terms for when and how assets are to be distributed to beneficiaries.

Directions for the trust can be as specific as you wish. Terms may be set requiring certain goals, stages of life, or ages for beneficiaries to receive assets. This amount of control is part of the appeal of trusts. You can also set terms for when beneficiaries are not to receive anything from the trust.

Let’s say you have two adult children in their 30s. You could set a condition for them to receive monthly payments from trust earnings and nothing from the principal during their lifetimes. The next generation, your grandchildren, can be directed to receive only earnings as well, further preserving the trust principal and ensuring its future for generations to come.

Dynasty trusts are irrevocable, meaning that once assets are transferred, the transfer is permanent. Be certain that any assets going into the trust won’t be needed in the short or long run.

Be mindful if you chose to leave assets directly to grandchildren, skipping one generation, you risk the Generation Skipping Tax. There is no GST with a dynasty trust.

Assets in a trust are still subject to income tax, if they generate income. If you transfer assets creating little or no income, you can minimize this tax.

Not all states allow qualified perpetual trusts, while other states have used perpetual trusts to create a cottage industry for trusts. Dynasty trusts can offer more control over assets than other types of trusts, but they may not be the best choice. Your estate planning attorney will be able to advise the best perpetual trust for your situation. If you would like to read more about trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: yahoo! finance (July 12, 2022) “This Trust Can Help You Create a Financial Dynasty

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IRS Extending Time to File Portability Exemption

IRS Extending Time to File Portability Exemption

When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse has the option of taking the unused federal estate tax exclusion and applying it to their own estate. This is known as electing portability for the DSUE, Deceased Spousal Unused Exemption, according to a recent article “Estates can now request late portability election relief for 5 years” from the Journal of Accountancy. The IRS is extending the time it takes to file a portability exemption.

The portability exemption has grown in use, and the scheduled decrease in the estate tax exemption starting on January 1, 2026, will no doubt dramatically expand the number of people who will be even more eager to adopt this process.

The IRS has extended the amount of time a surviving spouse may elect to take the Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion (DSUE) from two to five years. The expanded timeframe is a reflection of the number of requests for letter rulings from estates missing the deadline for what had been a two-year relief period. The overly burdened and underfunded agency needed to find a solution to an avalanche of estates seeking this relief. Most of the requests were from estates missing the deadline between two years and under five years from the decedent’s date of death.

To reduce the number of letter ruling requests, the IRS has updated the requirement by extending the period within which the estate of a decedent may make the portability election under the simplified method to on or before the fifth anniversary of the decedent’s death.

There are some requirements to use the simplified method. The decedent must have been a citizen or U.S. resident at the date of death and the executor must not have been otherwise required to file an estate tax return based on the value of the gross estate and any adjusted taxable gifts. The executor must also not have timely filed the estate’s tax return within nine months after the date of death or date of extended file deadline.

If it is determined later that the estate was in fact required to file an estate tax return, the grant of relief will be voided.

Note that this change doesn’t extend the period during which the surviving spouse can claim a credit or a refund of any overpaid gift or estate taxes on the surviving spouse’s own gift or estate return.

The decision by the IRS extending the time to file a portability exemption will become even more popular after December 31, 2025, when the federal exemption changes from $12.6 million per person to $5 million (adjusted for inflation). Given the rise in housing prices, even people with modest estates may find themselves coming close or exceeding the federal estate tax level. If you would like to learn more about the portability exemption, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Journal of Accountancy (July 11, 2022) “Estates can now request late portability election relief for 5 years”

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Your Estate Plan should incorporate Asset Protection

Your Estate Plan should incorporate Asset Protection

Your estate plan should incorporate asset protection and tax planning. Most people don’t realize they live with a certain level of risk and it can be addressed in their estate plan, says an article from Forbes titled “You Need An Asset Protection Plan Not Just A Will.”

Being aware of these issues and knowing that they need to be addressed is step one. Here’s an illustration: a married couple in their 50s have two teenage children. They are diligent people and made sure to have an estate plan created early in their marriage. It’s been updated over the years, adding guardians when their children were born and making changes as needed. They have worked hard and also have been fortunate. They own a vacation home they rent most of the year and a small retail business and both of their teenage children drive cars. They don’t see a reason to tie asset protection and risk management into their estate plan. No one they know has ever been sued.

With assets in excess of $4 million and annual income of $350,000, they are a risk target. If one of their children were in an auto accident, they might be liable for any damages, especially if they own the cars the children drive.

The vacation home, if not held in a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or another type of entity, could lead to exposure risks too. If the property is not insured as an income-producing business property and something occurs on the property, the insurance company could easily refuse the claim if the house is insured as a residence.

If their retail business is owned by an LLC or another properly prepared entity, they have personal protection. However, if they have not followed the laws of their state for a business, they might lose the protection of the business structure.

Retirement assets also need to be protected. If they have employees and a retirement plan and are not adhering strictly to all of the requirements, their retirement plan qualification could easily be placed in jeopardy. Their estate planning attorney should be asked to review the pension plan and how it is being administered to ensure that their retirement is not at risk.

There are several reasons why tax oriented trusts would make a lot of sense for this couple. While current gift estate and GST (Generation Skipping Tax) exemptions are historically high right now, they won’t be forever.

This couple would be well-advised to speak with their estate planning attorney about the use of trusts, to serve several distinct functions. Trusts can shelter assets from litigation, decrease or minimize estate taxes when the estate tax changes in 2026 and possibly protect life insurance policies.

Estate planning and risk management are not only for people with mansions and global businesses. Regular people, business owners, and wage earners in all tax brackets, should incorporate asset protection in their estate plan to address their legacy, protect their assets and defend their estate against risks. If you would like to learn more about asset protection, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (June 7, 2022) “You Need An Asset Protection Plan Not Just A Will”

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Strategies to reduce Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

Strategies to reduce Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

The unified estate and gift tax exemption increased from $5 million to $10 million, with inflation indexing stands at $12.06 million in 2022. A married couple can shelter as much as $24.12 million from the federal estate tax. However, what about assets you gift or leave in your will to grandchildren, asks a recent article titled “Beware the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax” from CPA Practice Advisor. There are strategies to reduce the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Without proper estate planning, the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) may be imposed on families who aren’t prepared for it. There are some strategies to work around the GSTT. However, you’ll need to get this done in advance of making any gifts or before you die.

The GSTT was created to prevent wealthy individuals from getting too far around the estate and gift rules through generation-skipping transfers, as the name implies. A simple explanation of the tax is this: the tax applies to transfers to related individuals who are more than one generation away—that would be grandchildren or great grandchildren—and any unrelated individuals more than 37 ½ years younger. They are known as “skip persons.”

Transferring assets to a trust and naming grandchildren or a much younger person as the ultimate beneficiary doesn’t work to avoid the GSTT. If you took this route, all of the trust beneficiaries, which could also be adult children, would be treated as skip persons. Even the trust itself may be considered a skip person, in certain circumstances.

The rules for the GSTT are the same as apply to federal estate taxes. The top tax rate for the GSTT is 40%, the same rate for federal estate taxes. The GSTT also shares the same exemption rate, indexed for inflation, as the federal estate tax.

However, remember what’s coming. In 2026, the exemption is scheduled to revert to $5 million, plus inflation indexing. If Congress enacts any other legislation before then, it will change sooner.

There’s more. There is a GSTT exemption for lifetime transfers aligned with the annual gift tax exclusion. You may gift up to $16,000 per recipient, including a grandchild or other descendent, every year, without triggering a GSTT bill.

Talk with your estate planning attorney to see if these three strategies are appropriate for you to avoid or reduce the Generation-skipping transfer tax:

  • Make the most of the GSTT exemption. Even though lifetime transfers do reduce the available estate tax shelter, the current $12.06 million exemption provides a lot of flexibility.
  • You can use the annual gift tax exemption to shelter tax gifts up to $16,000 above and beyond the lifetime exemption. Use this before the lifetime exemption.
  • Always look to see how trusts within the usual tax law boundaries can be used to protect assets from taxes.

If you would like to learn more about strategies to reduce estate taxes, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CPA Practice Advisor (June 3, 2022) “Beware the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax”

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Leaving Property in Trust is Common

Leaving Property in Trust is Common

A typical estate at death will include a personal residence. It’s common for a large estate to also include a vacation home, or family retreat. Leaving real property in trust is common.

Estate plans that include a revocable trust will fund the trust by a pour-over, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Should You Own Your Home in Your Trust?”

A settlor (the person establishing a trust) often will title their home to the revocable trust, which becomes irrevocable at death.

Another option is a Qualified Personal Residence Trust, which is irrevocable, to gift a valuable home to a trust for the settlor’s children. With a QPRT, the house is passed over a term of years while the original owner continues to live there, so the gift passes with little or no gift or estate tax.

Some trusts arising from a decedent estate will hold the home belonging to the settlor without any instructions for its disposal or retention. Outside of very large trusts, a requirement to actually purchase homes for beneficiaries in the trust is far less common.

It is more common in a large trust to have terms that let the trustee buy a home for a beneficiary outside the trust or keep the settlor’s home in the trust for a beneficiary’s use, including purchasing a replacement home when requested.

The trustee will hopefully propose a plan that will satisfy the beneficiary without undue risk to the trust estate or exceeding the trustee’s powers. The most relevant considerations for homeownership in a trust are:

  • The competing needs of other trust beneficiaries
  • The purchase price and costs of maintaining the home
  • The size of the trust as compared to those costs
  • Other sources of income and resources available to the beneficiary; and
  • The interests of the remaindermen (beneficiaries who will take from the trust when the current beneficiaries’ interests terminate).

The terms of the trust may require the trustee to ignore some of these considerations.

Each situation requires a number of decisions that could expose the trustee to a charge that it has acted imprudently.

Leaving real property in trust is common and those who want to create a trust should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to avoid any issues. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Feb. 8, 2022) “Should You Own Your Home in Your Trust?”

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When to File a Gift Tax Return

When to File a Gift Tax Return

The IRS wants to know how much you’re gifting over the course of your lifetime. This is because while gifts may be based on generosity, they are also a strategy for avoiding taxes, including estate taxes, reports The Street in a recent article “How Do Gif Taxes Work?”. It is important to understand when to file a gift tax return and the consequences of not filing.

Knowing whether you need to file a gift tax return is relatively straightforward. The IRS has guidelines about who needs to file a gift tax return and who does not. Your estate planning attorney will also be able to guide you, since gifting is part of your estate and tax planning.

If you give a gift worth more than $16,000, it is likely you need to file a gift tax return. Let’s say you gave your son your old car. The value of used cars today is higher than ever because of limited supply. Therefore, you probably need to file a gift tax return. If the car title is held by you and your spouse, then the car is considered a gift from both of you. The threshold for a gift from a married couple is $32,000. Make sure that you have the right information on how the car is titled.

What if you added a significant amount of cash to an adult child’s down payment on a new home? If you as a member of a married couple gave more than $32,000, then you will need to file a gift tax return. If you are single, anything over $16,000 requires a gift tax return.

529 contributions also fall into the gift tax return category. Gifts to 529 plans are treated like any other kind of gift and follow the same rules: $16,000 for individuals, $32,000 for married couples.

What about college costs? It depends. If you made payments directly to the educational institution, no gift tax return is required. The same goes for paying medical costs directly to a hospital or other healthcare provider. However, any kind of educational expense not paid directly to the provider is treated like any other gift.

Do trusts count as gifts? Good question. This depends upon the type of trust. A conversation with your estate planning attorney is definitely recommended in this situation. If the trust is a “Crummey” trust, which gives the beneficiary a right to immediately withdraw the gift put into the trust, then you may not need to file a gift tax return.

A Crummey trust is not intended to give the beneficiary the ability to make an immediate withdrawal. However, the withdrawal right makes the gift in the trust a “current gift” and it qualifies for the annual exclusion limit. Recategorizing the gift can potentially exempt the person giving the gift from certain tax obligations. Check with your estate planning attorney.

Even when someone does file a gift tax return, the amount of tax being paid is usually zero. This is because the gifts are offset by each person’s lifetime exemption. The IRS wants these returns filed to keep track of how much each individual has gifted over time. Unless you are very wealthy and making gift transfers from a family trust or to family members, it is not likely you will ever end up paying a tax. You are, however, required to keep the IRS informed. If you would like to learn more about gift taxes and ways to limit them, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Street (March 31, 2022) “How Do Gift Taxes Work?”

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GRATs are used to Reduce Taxes

GRATs are used to Reduce Taxes

Estate planning includes using various methods to reduce gift and estate taxes, as described in a recent article titled “Grantor Retained Annuity Trust Questions Answered” from Entrepreneur. GRATs are one type of irrevocable annuity trust used by estate planning attorneys to reduce taxes.

An annuity is a financial product, often sold by insurance companies, where you contribute funds or assets to an account, referred to as premiums. The trust distributes payments to a beneficiary on a regular basis. If you have a Grantor-Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), the person establishing the trust is the Grantor, who receives the annuities from the trust.

The GRAT payments are typically made annually or near the anniversary of the funding date. However, they can be made any time within 105 days after the annuity date. Payments to the GRAT may not be made in advance, so consider your cash flow before determining how to fund a GRAT. For this to work, the grantor must receive assets equal in value to what they put into the GRAT. If the assets appreciate at a rate higher than the interest rate, it’s a win. At the end of the GRAT term, all appreciation in the assets is gifted to the named remainder beneficiaries, with no gift or estate tax.

Here is a step-by-step look at how a GRAT is set up.

  • First, an individual transfers assets into an irrevocable trust for a certain amount of time. It’s best if those assets have a high appreciation potential.
  • Two parts of the GRAT value are the annuity stream and the remainder interest. An estate planning attorney will know how to calculate these values.
  • Annuity payments are received by the grantor. The trust must produce a minimum return at least equal to the IRS Section 7520 interest rate, or the trust will use the principal to pay the annuity. In this case, the GRAT has failed, reverting the trust assets back to the grantor.
  • Once the final annuity payment is made, all remaining assets and asset growth are gifted to beneficiaries, if the GRAT returns meet the IRS Section 7520 interest rate requirements.

The best candidates for GRATS are those who face significant estate tax liabilities at death. An estate freeze can be achieved by shifting all or some of the appreciation to heirs through a GRAT.

A GRAT can also be used to permit an S-Corporation owner to preserve control of the business, while freezing the asset’s value and taking it out of the owner’s taxable estate. Caution is required here, because if the owner of the business dies during the term of the GRAT, the current stock value is returned to the owner’s estate and becomes taxable.

GRATs are used most often in transferring large amounts of money to beneficiaries, helping to reduce taxes. A GRAT allows you to give a beneficiary more than $16,000 without triggering a gift tax, which is especially useful for wealthy individuals with healthy estates.

There are some downsides to GRATs. When the trust term is over, remaining assets become the property of the beneficiaries. Setting a term must be done mindfully. If you have a long-term GRAT of 20 years, it is more likely that you may experience serious health challenges as you age, and possibly die before the term is over. If the assets in the GRAT depreciate below the IRS’s assumed return rate, any benefits of the GRAT are lost. If you would like to learn more about GRATs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Entrepreneur (March 17, 2022) “Grantor Retained Annuity Trust Questions Answered”

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Gifting to your Loved Ones can reduce Taxes

Gifting to your Loved Ones can reduce Taxes

For wealthier Americans, gifting to your loved ones now can help you reduce or even avoid estate taxes when you die, say Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Give Cash Now, Cut Your Estate Tax Later.”

Any gift may be subject to the federal gift tax, but you can give up to $16,000 per person during the year without having to file a gift tax return. If you are married, your spouse can also give $16,000 to the same people, upping the annual tax-free gift up to $32,000 per person.

Whatever you give away this year, up to the $16,000-per-recipient limit, will not be counted for estate tax purposes when you die.

If the current value of your estate is above the federal estate tax exclusion amount ($12.06 million for 2022), giving away money now could drop the value below the exclusion amount. The result would be no federal estate tax when you pass away.

There could also be state estate taxes to worry about. A dozen states and the District of Columbia have their own estate tax. Each currently has an exclusion amount that is far below the current federal standard (like just $1 million in Massachusetts and Oregon).

What happens if you are feeling extra generous and want to give more than $16,000 (or $32,000 per couple) to your fantastic 30-year-old niece this year?

You will be required to file a gift tax return (IRS Form 709), and the amount over $16,000 is potentially a taxable gift.

However, gifting to your loved ones can still reduce gift and estate taxes, if the total amount of taxable gifts so far over your lifetime is less than $12.06 million.

Therefore, if you are thinking of dropping a very large amount of cash in the hands of your niece (or whomever), it does not necessarily mean you will have to pay taxes on the gift.

For strategies about gift giving, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you would like to learn more about reducing your tax burden, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 2, 2021) “Give Cash Now, Cut Your Estate Tax Later”

 

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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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