What Do Your Kids Want to Inherit? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Nearly everyone needs a will, also known as a last will and testament, to list all properties and assets and how they should be distributed postmortem. While the decisions are all yours, it’s helpful to know what personal possessions your children may or may not want to receive as part of their inheritance, as explained in the article “12 Things Your Kids Actually Might Want to Inherit” from Entrepreneur.

Making a list of things you want your children to inherit will save a lot of time, especially if you have a lot of possessions you want to give to them. You might think they want your collection of fine china and glassware, silverware and Grandma Helen’s sculptures. However, you might be wrong.

Wanting your children to have these items so they stay in the family isn’t wrong. However, it’s more than likely they’ll be donated after you die. If you want to make your children’s lives a little easier, here are twelve things they actually might want:

Cash money. Cash is the ideal asset, since it can be easily divided. Cash also provides an easy way to give your children a chance to invest in stocks or real estate or a means of starting a business.

Annuities. An inherited annuity has several advantages, including tax benefits, especially if they are non-qualified annuities paid for with after-tax dollars. By annuitizing an annuity, heirs may convert it into a steady and dependable income stream to help cover living expenses. They can choose to do this for a pre-defined period of time or for life, if the original annuity contract was created as a multi-life annuity.

Recipes. There are any number of ways to create a cookbook, from a simple bound folder to a hard-cover book likely to be shared and talked about, bringing warm memories to all.

Family Photos. Whether you take the time to organize them or not, videos and photos are your family’s history. Keep them in a water-proof bin and protect them for the future generations, until you’re ready to hand them over.

Trusts. Trusts are not just for wealthy people. Trusts are an all-purpose tool for passing assets across generations, controlling how they are used and minimizing estate tax liability. A trust is a legal entity to hold a variety of assets. A trust allows you to set down what you want done with the money, from paying for college to buying a first home. You name a trustee who is in charge of managing the trust and making sure your wishes are followed.

Furniture. Today’s young adult is more likely to want authentic furniture with family history than the latest knockdown furniture from Ikea. They also know how expensive good furniture is and may welcome saving money when furnishing their first home.

Vinyl Records. While collectors may value pristine records, the albums you listened to with scratches and skips will be prized by younger listeners. They evoke happy memories and hold sentimental value.

Life Insurance. If you want to leave money for your family but worry about the impact of taxes, life insurance is a good option. Your estate planning attorney will be able to explain who the beneficiary should be, or if you need to set up a trust to benefit your children.

Real Estate. Real estate is a strong investment with a track record of growth. Keeping a vacation home in the family for future generations requires extra planning. For many families, even a simple cabin by the lake is a touchstone of family history.

A Business. Family-owned businesses are often passed to the next generation. An established business has value up front and, if all is well with the business, provides income. A succession plan will be needed. Be realistic: if your children have never set foot in your office or expressed interest in the business, selling it may be a better move.

Investment Accounts. Stocks, bonds or other investment accounts can be gifted to children while you are living or after you die. Like cash, this asset is easily divided and relatively easy to give.

Education Funds. You can start a College Savings Account 529 for individual children when they are born or open one at any time to help with college expenses. Having financial help for college could be the difference between the burden of college loans or being able to explore different careers without the constant worry that a six-figure debt brings.

Contact us to speak with one of our estate planning attorneys and explore all of the different ways to transfer wealth to the next generation while you are living and after you pass.

Reference: Entrepreneur (Oct. 30, 2022) “12 Things Your Kids Actually Might Want to Inherit”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Don’t Miss Out on Estate Planning Opportunities – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The recent article, “Rooting Out Estate Planning Opportunities,” from Financial Advisor offers a number of frequently missed opportunities in estate planning. Chief among them is failing to update estate plans, as changes to tax laws could mean that strategies used when your estate plan was initially created may no longer be relevant.

Before these opportunities can be discovered, it’s important to have a clear accounting of all of your assets, including a balance sheet of each “bucket” of resources: personal assets, trust assets, qualified plan assets, etc. The secret to success: meeting with your estate planning attorney every few years to review this entire picture to identify potential opportunities.

Once you have a sense of the whole picture, it’s easier to spot opportunities. For instance:

A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust, or SLAT, is an irrevocable trust used when a grantor wants to transfer part of their spousal exclusion into a SLAT to provide for their spouse and descendants. The SLAT keeps assets out of the donor’s estate and authorizes the trustee to make distributions to the grantor’s spouse, while at the same time it allows children or other heirs to be named as beneficiaries. Many couples use these trusts to protect assets from lawsuits.

There are some drawbacks to keep in mind. If one spouse is the beneficiary of the other spouse, all is well while both are living. However, if one spouse dies or becomes incapacitated and all assets are in the trust, the other may lose access to the trust created for the now deceased spouse.

The loss of access and the restrictions on SLAT distribution could be addressed by having both spouses purchase life insurance policies to fill the gap. At the same time, the couple would be well advised to look into disability and long-term care insurance.

Another situation is the use of a credit shelter trust, often called a bypass trust because it bypasses the surviving spouse’s estate. They are not as advantageous as they used to be because of today’s high estate tax exemption. They were also popular when the surviving spouse wasn’t able to use their deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption.

With the federal estate tax exemption up to more than $12 million, many who still have credit shelter trusts may find they don’t make sense in the short term. However, for now the federal estate exemption is set to drop down to $6 million when the Jobs and Tax Act sunsets. Depending upon your circumstances, it may be worthwhile to maintain this trust. Your estate planning attorney will be able to guide you.

Merging old trusts into new ones, or “decanting” them, makes sense in some situations. A new trust can be better crafted to align with the latest in tax laws and serve the same beneficiaries for as long as your state’s laws permit.

The two important takeaways here:

  • Estate planning requires a complete look at all of your assets and liabilities to make the best decisions on how to structure any estate and tax strategies; and
  • Estate plans need to be reviewed on a regular basis—every three to five years at a minimum—to ensure the strategies still work, despite any changes in tax laws and your situation.

If you believe your estate plan may need to be updated, contact us to schedule an appointment to review your current estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Financial Advisor (Nov. 1, 2022) “Rooting Out Estate Planning Opportunities”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Top 10 Success Tips for Estate Planning – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Unless you’ve done the planning, assets may not be distributed according to your wishes and loved ones may not be taken care of after your death. These are just two reasons to make sure you have an estate plan, according to the recent article titled “Estate Planning 101: 10 Tips for Success” from the Maryland Reporter.

Create a list of your assets. This should include all of your property, real estate, liquid assets, investments and personal possessions. With this list, consider what you would like to happen to each item after your death. If you have many assets, this process will take longer—consider this a good thing. Don’t neglect digital assets. The goal of a careful detailed list is to avoid any room for interpretation—or misinterpretation—by the courts or by heirs.

Meet with an estate planning attorney to create wills and trusts. These documents dictate how your assets are distributed after your death. Without them, the laws of your state may be used to distribute assets. You also need a will to name an executor, the person responsible for carrying out your instructions.

Your will is also used to name a guardian, the person who will raise your children if they are orphaned minors.

Who is the named beneficiary on your life insurance policy? This is the person who will receive the death benefit from your policy upon your death. Will this person be the guardian of your minor children? Do you prefer to have the proceeds from the policy used to fund a trust for the benefit of your children? These are important decisions to be made and memorialized in your estate plan.

Make your wishes crystal clear. Legal documents are often challenged if they are not prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney or if they are vaguely worded. You want to be sure there are no ambiguities in your will or trust documents. Consider the use of “if, then” statements. For example, “If my husband predeceases me, then I leave my house to my children.”

Consider creating a letter of intent or instruction to supplement your will and trusts. Use this document to give more detailed information about your wishes, from funeral arrangements to who you want to receive a specific item. Note this document is not legally binding, but it may avoid confusion and can be used to support the instructions in your will.

Trusts may be more important than you think in estate planning. Trusts allow you to take assets out of your probate estate and have these assets managed by a trustee of your choice, who distributes assets directly to beneficiaries. You don’t have to have millions to benefit from a trust.

List your debts. This is not as much fun as listing assets, but still important for your executor and heirs. Mortgage payments, car payments, credit cards and personal loans are to be paid first out of estate accounts before funds can be distributed to heirs. Having this information will make your executor’s tasks easier.

Plan for digital assets. If you want your social media accounts to be deleted or emails available to a designated person after you die, you’ll need to start with a list of the accounts, usernames, passwords, whether the platform allows you to designate another person to have access to your accounts and how you want your digital assets handled after death. This plan should be in place in case of incapacity as well.

How will estate taxes be paid? Without tax planning properly done, your legacy could shrink considerably. In addition to federal estate taxes, some states have state estate taxes and inheritance taxes. Talk with your estate planning attorney to find out what your estate tax obligations will be and how to plan strategically to pay the taxes.

Plan for Long Term Care. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 70% of Americans will need some type of long-term care during their lifetimes. Some options are private LTC insurance, government programs and self-funding.

The more planning done in advance, the more likely your loved ones will know what to do if you become incapacitated and know what you wanted when you die.  Contact us to begin working on your estate plan with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today.

Resource: Maryland Reporter (Sep. 27, 2022) “Estate Planning 101: 10 Tips for Success”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Can a Trust Be Created to Protect a Pet? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

For one woman in the middle of preparing for a no-contest divorce, the idea of a pet trust was a novel one. She was estranged from her sister and didn’t want her ex-husband to gain custody of her seven horses, three cats and five dogs if she died or became incapacitated. Who would care for her beloved animals?

The solution, as described in the article “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family” from AARP, was to form a pet trust, a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of companion animals in the event of a person’s disability or death.

Creating a pet trust and establishing a long-term plan requires state-specific paperwork and funding mechanisms, which are different from leaving property and assets to human family members. An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to ensure that the protections in place will work.

Shelters nationally are seeing a big increase in animals being surrendered because of COVID or people who are simply not able to take care of their pets. Suddenly, a companion pet accustomed to being near its human owner 24/7 is left alone in a shelter cage.

When pet parents have not made plans for their pets, more often than not these pets end up in shelters. However, not all animal shelters are no-kill shelters. In 2021, data from Best Friends Animal Society shows an increase in the number of pets euthanized in shelters for the first time in five years.

For pet owners who can’t identify a caregiver for their companions, the best option may be to find an animal sanctuary or a shelter providing perpetual care.

The woman described above had a pet trust created and funded it with a long-term care and life insurance policy. The trust was designed with a board of three trustees to check and balance one another to determine how the money will be allocated and what will happen to her assets. Her horse property could be sold, or a long-term student or trainer could be brought in to run her barn.

It is not legally possible to leave money directly to an animal, so setting up a trust with one trustee or a board is the best way to ensure that care will be given until the animals themselves pass away.

The stand-alone pet trust (which is a living trust) exists from the moment it is created. A dedicated bank account may be set up in the name of the pet trust or it could be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance or retirement plan.

A pet trust can also be set up within a larger trust, like a drawer within a dresser. The trust won’t kick in until death. These plans prevent the type of delays typical with probate but is problematic if the person becomes incapacitated.

If a trust is created as part of another trust, there can still be delays in accessing the money, if the pet trust is getting money from the larger trust.

With costlier animals likes horses and exotic birds, any delay in funding could be catastrophic.

How long will your pet live? A parrot could live for 80 years, which would need an endowment to invest assets and earn income over decades. A long-living pet also needs a succession of caregivers, as a tortoise with a 150-year lifespan will outlive more than one caregiver.

Contact us to speak with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys about setting up a trust for your pets.

Reference: AARP (Sep. 14, 2022) “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family”

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What Is a QTIP Trust? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust, or QTIP, is a trust allowing the person who makes the trust (the grantor) to provide for a surviving spouse while maintaining control of how the trust’s assets are distributed once the surviving spouse passes, as explained in the article “QTIP Trusts” from Investopedia.

QTIPs are irrevocable trusts, commonly used by people who have children from prior marriages. The QTIP allows the grantor to take care of their spouse and ensure assets in the trust are eventually passed to beneficiaries of their own choosing. Beneficiaries could be the grantor’s offspring from a prior marriage, grandchildren, other family members or friends.

In addition to providing the surviving spouse with income, the QTIP also limits applicable estate and gift taxes. The property within the QTIP trust provides income to the surviving spouse and qualifies as a marital deduction, meaning the value of the trust is not taxable after the death of the first spouse. Rather, the property in the QTIP trust will be included in the estate of the surviving spouse and subject to estate taxes depending on the value of their own assets and the estate tax exemption in effect at the time of death.

The QTIP can also assert control over how assets are handled when the surviving spouse dies, as the spouse never assumes the power of appointment over the principal. This is especially important when there is more than one marriage and children from more than one family. This prevents those assets from being transferred to the living spouse’s new spouse if they should re-marry.

A minimum of one trustee must be appointed to manage the trust, although there may be multiple trustees named. The trustee is responsible for controlling the trust and has full authority over assets under management. The surviving spouse, a financial institution, an estate planning attorney or other family member or friend may serve as a trustee.

The surviving spouse named in a QTIP trust usually receives income from the trust based on the trust’s income, similar to stock dividends. Payments may only be made from the principal if the grantor allows it when the trust was created, so it must be created to suit the couple’s needs.

Payments are made to the spouse as long as they live. Upon their death, the payments end, and they are not transferable to another person. The assets in the trust then become the property of the listed beneficiaries.

The marital trust is similar to the QTIP, but there is a difference in how the assets are controlled. A QTIP allows the grantor to dictate how assets within the trust are distributed and requires at least annual distributions. A marital trust allows the surviving spouse to dictate how assets are distributed, regular distributions are not required, and new beneficiaries can be added. The marital trust is more flexible and, accordingly, more common in first marriages and not in blended families.

Your estate planning attorney will explain further how else these two trusts are different and which one is best for your situation. There are other ways to create trusts to control how assets are distributed, how taxes are minimized and to set conditions on benefits. Each person’s situation is different, and there are trusts and strategies to meet almost every need imaginable.

Contact us to determine which trust is best for your family and situation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: Investopedia (Aug. 14, 2022) “QTIP Trusts”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Do You Need to Do When a Spouse Dies? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Life events require planning, even the most heartbreaking, like the death of a spouse. Spouses ideally create a blueprint together so when the inevitable occurs, they are prepared, says the article “The important financial steps to take after a spouse dies” from The Globe and Mail. It may sound cold to take a business approach, but by doing so, the surviving spouse will know what to expect and what to do.

Some people use a spreadsheet to clearly see what their financial picture will look like before and after the loss of a spouse.

There are pieces of information that are vital to know:

  • What health insurance coverage does the spouse have?
  • Will the coverage remain in place after the death of the spouse?
  • Do any accounts need to be changed to joint ownership before death?
  • What investments do both spouses have, and will they be accessible after death of one spouse?
  • Is there a last will and testament, and where is it located?

Many people are wholly unprepared and have to tackle their entire financial situation immediately after their spouse dies. If they were not involved in family finances and retirement planning, it can lead to costly mistakes and make a difficult time even harder.

If assets are owned jointly with rights of survivorship, the transition and access to finances is easier. If the accounts are only in one name, the surviving spouse will have to wait until the estate goes through probate before they can access funds. If there are bills to pay, the surviving spouse may have to tap retirement funds, which can come with penalties, depending on the accounts and the surviving spouse’s age.

All of this can be avoided by taking the time to create an estate plan which includes planning for asset distribution and may include trusts. There are many trusts designed for use by spouses to take assets out of the probate estate, provide an income source and minimize taxes. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help prepare for this event, from a legal and practical standpoint.

What happens when there’s no will?

No will usually indicates no planning. This leaves spouses and family members in the worst possible situation. The laws of your state will be used to determine how assets are distributed. How much a surviving spouse and descendants will inherit will be based solely on the law. The results may not be optimal for anyone. It’s best to meet with an estate planning attorney and create a will.

Reviewing beneficiary designations for life insurance policies and retirement accounts should be done every few years. If the beneficiary is no longer part of the account owner’s life, the designation needs to be updated. If the beneficiary had died, most accounts would go into the probate estate, where they otherwise would pass directly to the beneficiary.

If you would like to make sure everything is in order for you and your spouse, please contact us to schedule a call with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.

Reference: The Globe and Mail (July 13, 2022) “The important financial steps to take after a spouse dies”

 

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Pay Attention to Income Tax when Creating Estate Plans – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

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 often-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 is 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. 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.

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

 

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Can Trusts Help Create Wealth? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

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 do not 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 will not 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. Your estate planning attorney will be able to advise the best perpetual trust for your situation.

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

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

What Happens to Stock Options when Someone Dies? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Once your business grows, so does the pressure to make good financial decisions in the short and long term. When you think about the future, estate and succession planning emerge as two major concerns. You are not just considering balance sheets, profits and losses, but your family and what will happen to them and your business when you are not around. This thinking leads to what seems like a great idea: transferring stock or LLC membership units to one or more of your adult children.

There are benefits, especially the ability to avoid a 40% estate tax and other benefits. However, there are also lots of ways this can go sideways, fast.

Executing due diligence and creating an exit plan to minimize taxes and successfully transfer the business takes planning and, even harder, removing emotions from the plan to make a good decision.

An outright transfer of stock or ownership units can expose you and your business to risk. Even if your children are Ivy-league MBA grads, with track records of great decision making and caring for you and your spouse, this transaction offers zero protection and all risk for you. What could go wrong?

  • An in-law (one you may not have even met yet) could try to place a claim on the business and move it away from the family.
  • Creditors could seize assets from the children, entirely likely if their future holds legal or financial problems—or if they have such problems now and have not shared them with you.
  • Assets could go into your children’s estates, which reintroduces exposure to estate taxes.

No family is immune from any of these situations, and if you ask your estate planning attorney, you will hear as many horror stories as you can tolerate.

Trusts are a solution. Thoughtfully crafted for your unique situation, a trust can help avoid exposure to some estate and other taxes, allocating effective ownership to your children, in a protected manner. Your ultimate goal: keeping ownership in the family and minimizing tax exposure.

A Beneficiary Defective Inheritance Trust (BDIT) may be appropriate for you. If you have already executed an outright transfer of the stock, it is not too late to fix things. The BDIT is a grantor trust serving to enable protection of stock and eliminate any “residue” in your children’s estates.

If you have not yet transferred stock to children, do not do it. The risk is very high. If you have already completed the transfer, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about how to reverse the transfer and create a plan to protect the business and your family.

Bottom line: business interests are better protected when they are held not by individuals, but by trusts for the benefit of individuals. Your estate planning attorney can draft trusts to achieve goals, minimize estate taxes and, in some situations, even minimize state income taxes.

Reference: The Street (June 27, 2022) “Should I Transfer Company Stock to My Kids?”

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

The Future of Your IRA and How the SECURE Act Changed the Rules – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

An ongoing series of changes from Congress has estate planning lawyers paying close attention to what is going on in Washington. The IRS recently proposed more changes to IRAs, details of which are explained in this recent article “The Secure Act Changed Inherited IRA Rules. What’s an Advisor to Do?” from Think Advisor. Every time the laws change, new opportunities and new restrictions are presented.

Having to empty inherited IRAs within 10 years makes the IRA less attractive from an estate planning perspective. If your legacy plan included leaving significant assets through an IRA, there are a number of alternatives to consider. First, take a longer look at your estate through an estate planning, inheritance and tax planning lens. Do you have enough funds to pay for the retirement you planned without the IRA? If not, the next steps may not apply to your situation.

What are your estate planning goals? If married, your spouse is probably the beneficiary on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. If you do not know who is named as your intended beneficiary, now is the time to check to be sure your beneficiaries are up to date.

Taxes come next, for you, your spouse and any non-spousal heirs. Withdrawals from traditional Roth IRAs are not generally taxable. Will anyone (besides your spouse) receiving the IRA be able to pay the taxes, or will they need to use the assets in the IRA to pay taxes?

The Roth IRA provides an excellent alternative to getting hurt by the SECURE Act’s 10-year restriction on inherited IRAs. Taxes are paid when the account is funded, there are no withdrawal requirements, and the accounts are free to grow over any length of time. Money in a traditional IRA may be converted to a Roth IRA, although you will be paying taxes on the conversion.

The Roth IRA conversion has a five-year requirement. Funds must be converted and remain in the account for five years before the more flexible Roth rules apply.

Roth IRAs may be passed to beneficiaries income-tax free. Non-spousal beneficiaries can take withdrawals from Roth IRAs tax-free as long as the five-year rule has been met. The beneficiaries can then use their inheritance as they wish, without the funds being diminished by higher taxes resulting from taking out large sums in a relatively short amount of time.

Roth IRAs are not exempt from federal estate taxes; just as traditional IRAs are not exempt. By making the conversion and paying the taxes upfront, however, you can at least minimize income taxes for heirs, even though you cannot eliminate the federal estate tax.

Rather than do the conversion all at once, consider doing a Roth IRA conversion over time, figuring out with your estate planning attorney the best way to do this to minimize your tax burden and adjust it for years when income is lower.

This flexible strategy with Roth IRAs can be used with all or a portion of the IRA, protecting part of the IRA for the next generation while using part of the funds for retirement. Your estate planning attorney will help you determine the best way to go forward, to meet your current and future needs.

Reference: Think Advisor (June 21, 2022) “The Secure Act Changed Inherited IRA Rules. What’s an Advisor to Do?”

 

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys