Category: Gift Tax

when mom refuses to get an Estate Plan

Distributing Inherited Assets in Many Accounts

This generous individual may be facing a number of legal and logistical hurdles, before assets in eight separate accounts can be passed to three relatives, says the article “Sorting through multiple inheritance accounts” from the Houston Chronicle. Does the heir need to speak with each of the investment companies? Would it make sense to combine all the assets into one account for the estate and then divide and distribute them from that one account? Distributing inherited assets in many accounts can be a nightmare.

If all the accounts were payable to this person upon the death of the brother, then the first thing is for the heir to contact each company and have all funds transferred to one account. It might be an already existing account in their name, or it may need to be a new account opened just for this purpose. The account could be at any of the brother’s investment firms, or it could be with a different firm.

If the accounts are not payable to the heir, but they are to be inherited as part of the brother’s estate, the estate must be probated before the funds can be claimed. In this case, it would be very helpful if the sole beneficiary is also the executor. This would put one person in charge of all of the work that needs to be done.

However, the person eventually will become the owner of all eight accounts. Once everything is in the heir’s name, then the assets can be distributed to the three relatives. There are some tax issues that must be addressed.

First, if the estate is large enough, it may owe federal estate taxes, which will diminish the size of the estate. The limit, if the brother died in 2020, is $11.58 million. If he died in an earlier year, the exemption will be considerably lower, and the estate and the executor may already be late in making federal tax payments. Penalties may apply, so a conversation with an estate planning attorney should take place as soon as possible.

If the brother lived in another state, there may be state estate or inheritance taxes owed to that state. While Texas does not have a state estate or inheritance tax, other states, like Pennsylvania, do. A consultation with an estate planning attorney can also answer this question.

When gifts are ultimately made to the three relatives, the first $15,000 given to each of them during a calendar year will be treated as a non-taxable gift. However, if any of the gifts exceed $15,000, the person will be using up their own $11.58 million exemption from gift and estate taxes. A gift tax return will need to be filed to report the gifts. If the heir is married, those numbers will likely double.

It may be possible to disclaim the inheritance, with the assets passing to the three relatives to whom the heir wishes to make these gifts. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to work through the details to determine the best way to proceed with receiving and distributing the assets. Depending upon the size of the estate, there will be tax consequences that must be considered. Do your best to avoid distributing inherited assets in many accounts.

If you would like to learn more about inherited asset distribution, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Houston Chronicle (March 24, 2020) “Sorting through multiple inheritance accounts”

 

when mom refuses to get an Estate Plan

Why Gifting during Volatile Markets Makes Sense

Gifting assets to a trust for children or grandchildren is often an important part of an estate plan. The recent article “Is Now a Good Time to Make a Gift?” from The National Law Review takes a close look into the strategy of placing non-cash assets into a trust, without exceeding the annual gift tax exclusion amount or the Federal Gift Tax Exemption. If those assets increase in value later, the increases will further enhance the gift for beneficiaries. This is why gifting during volatile markets makes sense.

Taxes on gifts made to a trust to benefit children and grandchildren are based primarily on the value of the gift. Annual exclusion gifts, that is, transfers of assets or cash that do not exceed the annual gift tax exclusion, are currently set at $15,000 per recipient per year. A married couple may give up to $30,000 per person in any calendar year. Many annual exclusion gifts do not require a Federal Gift Tax Return (Form 709), although it would be wise to speak with an estate planning attorney to make sure that this applies to you, since every situation is different.

Annual exclusion gifts are one way to reduce the overall value of the estate, but they do not reduce the Federal Estate Tax Exemption of the person making the gift.

Gifts in excess of the annual exclusion amount may still avoid gift taxes, if the person making the gift applies their gift tax exemption by filing IRS Form 709. The gift tax exemption is unified with the estate tax exemption, at $11.58 million per person in 2020. Gifts that are bigger than the annual exclusion of $15,000 per year, reduce the $11.58 million exemption for purposes of both the gift tax and the estate tax.

For example, if a person were to make taxable gifts of $1.0 million to a child in 2020, their lifetime gift tax and estate tax exemption will be reduced to $10.58 million. If that person were to die in 2020 when the applicable estate tax exemption is $10.58 million, then only estate assets in excess of the exemption will be subject to estate tax.

Given the uncertainly of the gift and estate tax exemptions, management and timing of these gifts is particularly important. If no legislative action occurs, these generous estate and gift tax exemptions will sunset at the end of 2025. They will return to the 2010 level of $5.0 million, indexed for inflation.

The exemptions need to be carefully used and budgeted, because federal estate tax starts at 18% and rises to 40% on all amounts over the exemption. Like the exemption, these rate rates may be changed by future elections and/or tax law changes.

If you are concerned about an estate becoming taxable, the current decline in asset values makes this a good opportunity to transfer more of the estate into trust for beneficiaries. The transfers can decrease the impact of a reduction in the exemption amount, as well as any changes to the tax rates. The currently reduced value of stocks and many other investments may also present an opportunity to reduce future taxes. This is why gifting during volatile markets makes sense.

The best way forward would be to have a conversation with an estate planning attorney to review your overall estate plan and how moving assets into trusts during a time of lowered value could benefit the estate and its beneficiaries. If you would like to learn more about gifting assets, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The National Law Review (April 10, 2020) “Is Now a Good Time to Make a Gift?”

 

when mom refuses to get an Estate Plan

Difference between Inter Vivos Trust and Testamentary Trust

What is the difference between an inter vivos trust and a testamentary trust? Trusts can be part of your estate planning to transfer assets to your heirs. A trust created while an individual is still alive is an inter vivos trust, while one established upon the death of the individual is a testamentary trust.

Investopedia’s recent article entitled “Inter Vivos Trust vs. Testamentary Trust: What’s the Difference?” explains that an inter vivos or living trust is drafted as either a revocable or irrevocable living trust and allows the individual for whom the document was established to access assets like money, investments and real estate property named in the title of the trust. Living trusts that are revocable have more flexibility than those that are irrevocable. However, assets titled in or made payable to both types of living trusts bypass the probate process, once the trust owner dies.

With an inter vivos trust, the assets are titled in the name of the trust by the owner and are used or spent down by him or her, while they’re alive. When the trust owner passes away, the remainder beneficiaries are granted access to the assets, which are then managed by a successor trustee.

A testamentary trust (or will trust) is created when a person dies, and the trust is set out in their last will and testament. Because the creation of a testamentary trust doesn’t occur until death, it’s irrevocable. The trust is a created by provisions in the will that instruct the executor of the estate to create the trust. After death, the will must go through probate to determine its authenticity before the testamentary trust can be created. After the trust is created, the executor follows the directions in the will to transfer property into the trust.

This type of trust doesn’t protect a person’s assets from the probate process. As a result, distribution of cash, investments, real estate, or other property may not conform to the trust owner’s specific desires. A testamentary trust is designed to accomplish specific planning goals like the following:

  • Preserving property for children from a previous marriage
  • Protecting a spouse’s financial future by giving them lifetime income
  • Leaving funds for a special needs beneficiary
  • Keeping minors from inheriting property outright at age 18 or 21
  • Skipping your surviving spouse as a beneficiary and
  • Making gifts to charities.

Through trust planning, married couples may use of their opportunity for estate tax reduction through the Unified Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption. That’s the maximum amount of assets the IRS allows you to transfer tax-free during life or at death. It can be a substantial part of the estate, making this a very good choice for financial planning. Understanding the difference between an inter vivos trust and a testamentary trust is vital to proper planning. If you would like to learn more about these types of trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Investopedia (Aug. 30, 2019) “Inter Vivos Trust vs. Testamentary Trust: What’s the Difference?”

 

when mom refuses to get an Estate Plan

Revoke a Trust on a House

There are a number of issues to consider, says nj.com’s recent article entitled “I want to revoke a trust on my house. What do I do?” To revoke a trust on a house, will require the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

The answer to a question about how to get out of a trust on a home is going to be in the terms of the trust itself. However, if the terms of the trust are silent, the answer may be found in the trust laws in the state statutes.

However, if answering the question in general terms, the primary concern is whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. If the trust is irrevocable, it means that the house can’t be removed from the trust. The exception to this rule is with a court order. Obtaining court approval can be very expensive and time consuming. In addition, there’s no guarantee you’ll get that approval, because courts frequently deny the requests depending on the facts of the case.

The first step is to determine whether the trust is revocable. You will then need to see who you are in relation to the trust.

Without a court order, the only person (or entity) who the trustee can sign a deed transferring a house that’s owned by a trust is the trustee.

The trust is set up to be managed by the trustee, rather than by any of the beneficiaries of the trust. Thus, for any change in the status of the house to occur, the trustee has to be in agreement that this should be done.

Next, let’s look at the reason why the home was initially put in a trust.

If the purpose was to lower estate taxes, it may make sense to revoke a trust on a house. This is especially the case, if the state no longer has an estate tax, like New Jersey which just got rid of theirs a few years ago, or there was never any state estate tax. An estate rarely meets the threshold for federal estate taxes.

However, if the house was put in the trust for purposes of asset protection as part of a long-term care plan, there aren’t many good reasons to take the house out of trust. The trust can sell the house and hold onto the proceeds or purchase another house without jeopardizing the asset protection plan. If you would like to read more about revoking a trust, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: nj.com (Feb. 4, 2020) “I want to revoke a trust on my house. What do I do?”

 

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