Specialized Estate Planning Techniques

KRH Website PictureThere are several areas of estate planning that provide unique opportunities to enhance tax and succession planning, while ensuring proper dissemination of net worth to appropriate individuals and/or entities.  Below are summaries of some of these specialized estate planning techniques:

INSURANCE

People should be aware that many estate planning situations involve the strategic use of insurance products.  Many attorneys and CPA’s often fail to see the connection between the dynamics of insurance and estate planning.  Individuals purchase millions of dollars worth of insurance each year for estate planning purposes, including liquidity, wealth replacement and business succession reasons.  Life insurance has relatively little market value during the life of the insured, therefore it is easy to get these policies isolated into an irrevocable life insurance trust.  Otherwise, the death benefit will be subject to the confiscatory estate tax.

DYNASTY TRUSTS

A Dynasty Trust is actually an irrevocable trust created by a trust agreement that may continue to create and operate trusts for many successive generations.  The trusts can continue passing assets from generation to generation without incurring transfer taxes.  Advantages of a Dynasty Trusts include estate tax-free compounding, creditor and divorce protection, per stirpital control, avoiding probate and potential income tax savings.

Most states have rules against holding property in trusts forever and limit the duration of the trust.  For example, Georgia allows trusts to continue for 90 years.  Fortunately, some states have abolished, enacted opt-out provisions or made other changes to their “rule against perpetuity” statutes allowing a person to create trusts to continue forever.  Currently, these states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin. In addition to these states, Wyoming and Utah both allow Dynasty Trusts to last for 1,000 years, Florida allows  Dynasty Trusts to last for 360 years and Washington allows Dynasty Trusts to last for 150 years.

Ironically, a person does not have to live in one of these states to take advantage of its laws. The Dynasty Trust language would name a special trustee that resides in the jurisdiction so desired to hold and manage the trust assets, thereby giving the trust sufficient nexus to the state in order to utilize its laws.

FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS

Family Limited Partnership (“FLP”) is a business entity set up to hold assets such as stock, real estate, etc.  Actually, in certain circumstances, limited liability companies (LLC’s) or limited liability limited partnerships (LLLP’s) may be the entity of choice, but the planning technique is generally referred as an FLP.

Transferring assets to an FLP can result in gift tax and estate tax savings because the taxpayer now owns a limited partnership interest rather than the underlying assets.  Limited partners, under common law, state law and the partnership agreement cannot participate in management or generally force liquidation of the partnership; therefore, the value of the partnership interest in an arms-length transaction is affected by a lack of control discount.  There also may be restrictions on transferability and other reasons that the limited partnership interest is worth less than a proportionate share of the underlying assets that are inside the partnership.  Therefore, gifts of partnership interest have become very popular ways of diminishing the size and growth of our clients’ estates.

Other advantages of FLP’s are the power to monitor wealth transfers to heirs, simplification of a person’s annual gifting, keeping assets in the family, providing creditor protection, protecting family assets from failed marriages, flexibility in the partnership agreement (as opposed to the irrevocable, unamendable trust), and flexibility in the management of the FLP. However, there are many formalities that must be followed in setting up FLP’s.  For example, the IRS requires significant non-tax purposes for the FLP.  There are a myriad of guidelines that should be followed, such as one should not transfer “personal” assets, like a personal residence, to an FLP.  FLP’s are a great tool to pass a client’s wealth on to the heirs during their lifetime, while  minimizing gift and estate taxes.

DEFECTIVE GRANTOR TRUSTS

A Defective Grantor Trust (“DGT”) is a term used for a trust that effectively removes property from a grantor’s estate for estate tax purposes, but not for income tax purposes.  A DGT is often used as a “freeze” technique, particularly for clients with large holdings of S corp stock.

S corp stock cannot be transferred to limited partnerships because a partnership is not a permitted S corp shareholder.  Yet, one of our objectives is often to try to shift any future appreciation in the S corp to a dynasty trust that has been set up for future generations.  A DGT is a permitted S corp shareholder. The grantor sells his/her interest in the S corp to the DGT (with dynasty provisions) in exchange for an installment note.  Because a grantor is considered owner of the DGT for income tax purposes, this sale is ignored for IRS purposes (no gain recognized).  We have now moved this asset out of grantor’s estate, except for the monies paid to him/her resulting from the installment note.

We have used a self-canceling installment note (“SCIN”) with an installment sale to a DGT.  This is obviously attractive since any remaining value of the installment note will go to zero if the grantor dies before the note has been completely paid.

GRAT’s, CRT’s & QPRT’s

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (“GRAT”), Charitable Remainder Trusts (“CRT”) and Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (“QPRT”) are irrevocable trusts where the grantor transfers an asset to the trust in exchange for an annual payment (or use of the underlying property in the case of a personal residence trust) for a specified term of years (or for life in the case of a charitable trust).  Upon the expiration of the term the trust terminates and the assets pass to the named beneficiaries or charities.  Due to the current low interest and tax rate environment, techniques involving GRAT’s can be more attractive, while generally CRT’s and QPRT’s are not as popular, but they all are still used in particular situations.

On the other hand, CRT’s may be more popular for their income tax advantages.  Assets are first contributed to the CRT and then sold.  Generally, 100% of the proceeds are then available for alternate investments.  The CRT is a device that can be used to alleviate income taxes on the sale of capital assets because CRT’s are generally not subject to income taxes. Presently, the low interest rate environment maximizes the amount of charitable deduction that is available for gifts to CRT’s today (versus several years ago.  However, the capital gains rates have generally been reduced to 15% making the avoidance of these lower rates less attractive.

A popular variety of the GRAT planning technique is the “Walton” GRAT.  This is a very short term GRAT used to remove appreciating property out of an estate with zero or minimal gift tax consequences.  The Walton GRAT sets up the payment to the grantor over a short period of time where the GRAT will exhaust most of the corpus within the trust.  Since, according to the IRS tables, the value returned to the grantor represents the entire value of the trust, the gift element (the remainder interest) is worth nothing for gift tax purposes.  However, the appreciation in the property that has occurred over that period of time is removed from the grantor’s estate.  A Walton GRAT is particularly useful if the value of the asset placed in the GRAT is a discounted asset, such as a limited partnership interest.  A limited partnership can make distributions to the GRAT during its term and allow payments back to the grantor, while having the limited partnership interest flow to dynasty trusts at the end of the GRAT’s term.

These are merely a few of the examples of the types of unique estate planning techniques available to estate planning clients.  It is important that clients, attorneys, accountants, trust officers, insurance agents and financial advisors become familiar with these techniques so they can be watchful and vigilant for opportunities where they may be appropriate.

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Musings from the CEO (Spring 2013)

Estate Planning has evolved significantly over the last several years.  In recent months, we have seen the estate tax exemption become “permanent” at $5,250,000 per person, and it will continue to adjust with inflation.  We have also seen the lifetime gift tax exemption and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption be permanently increased to keep pace with the “new” estate tax exemption.  An obvious effect of this development is that a significant number of estates will be able to pass to the next generation without transfer taxes.  A married couple can now pass at least $10,500,000 of wealth to their children before their estates are hit with the still significant 40% tax rate.

Congress has also made “portability” permanent, which means that any unused exemption when the first spouse dies is carried over to the estate of the surviving spouse.  Prudent planning generally does not rely on portability, since it is sabotaged by the subsequent marriage of the surviving spouse and does not apply to generation-skipping transfer tax.

The focus of seasoned estate planning techniques will continue for the more wealthy.  Estate planning should become less costly and complicated for most Americans, however, Hoffman & Associates will still focus on a significant use of dynasty trusts for a plethora of reasons.  These include not only potential estate tax savings, but also income tax flexibility, asset protection from creditors, preservation of family wealth in the bloodline, protection from divorce, and simplifying probate.  Dynasty trusts, however, are under scrutiny and threat as the Obama Administration pushes its agenda.  While most states are extending the period of time that trusts can hold property, there are proposals to limit that duration for transfer tax (and other?) purposes.

Joe Nagel’s article in this Newsletter is a good reminder to us of the many reasons for estate planning, most of which are not focused on taxes.  We want to be good stewards of our assets.

At Hoffman & Associates our practice will continue to focus on estate planning techniques and working with clients to accomplish their estate planning objectives, with significant focus on succession planning for family businesses and asset protection.

We are seeing an increased focus on elder law matters.  As our client base gets older and the imminent demographics of the country are affected by the baby boomers and their parents, medical technology and a focus on general health issues constantly increase our life expectancies.

As income tax rates continue increasing, we are witnessing a rekindling of our clients’ focus on income tax planning.  This is “back to the basics” for a tax planning firm like Hoffman & Associates.  We continue to focus on important decisions about retirement plans, social security, tax deductions, and the tax sensitive nature of investments on behalf of our clients.

Kim Hoipkemier’s article this month highlights a focus area of Hoffman & Associates, namely, Estate Planning for Women.  Again, demographics, the economy, education and corporate America recognizes that women continue to live longer, earn more, and prosper, with the ever increasing responsibility to juggle and manage family and wealth.

Finally, at Hoffman & Associates we have begun a new area of service for our clients, as their situations demand new and flexible assistance to help them manage their daily financial lives.  The Hoffman Family Office (HFO) services include record keeping, bill paying, bookkeeping, budgeting, investment analysis, insurance analysis/shopping, and family philanthropy matters.  Whether it is the overwhelmed widow, the busy corporate executive, or the family that wants to responsibly out-source some of their financial tedium to their trusted advisors, we want to fill the vacuum by providing such help from the Firm they have trusted with so many other important areas of their planning and financial well-being.  Carolina Gomez of our office has been busy defining the areas where HFO can make a difference, and is ready to talk to you about any area you think HFO may be of assistance.

These are interesting times, and I choose to believe we are at the beginning of good times.  While we are clawing out of a recession, and Washington, DC has us constantly on pins and needles, the economy is generally getting better, unemployment is generally not increasing, and our clients generally are in an upswing in their attitudes and well-beings.  We want to be here for those who need assistance, whether it is planning for them or an elderly family member, assisting with the growth and success of their business, or simply to put their mind at ease that they have satisfactorily addressed planning considerations within their realm of influence.  Let us hear from you!

 

 

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose. The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only. Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.