Can You Gift Money on Your Deathbed? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A new case out of Tax Court centers on the question of when a “deathbed gift” is considered acceptable for estate and gift tax purposes. The powerful tax law provisions used to help many taxpayers avoid federal estate tax, or reduce it to a manageable size, makes this an important decision, especially as we draw closer to a time when estate tax exemption is likely to return to a far lower number.

The two tax law provisions, described in the article “Tax Court Says When Deathbed Gifts Are Complete” from accounting WEB, are the following:

Annual gift tax exclusion. A taxpayer may give gifts to recipients under the annual gift tax exclusion without incurring any gift taxes. The exclusion, indexed for inflation in $1,000 increments, is $16,000 per recipient in 2022. It’s doubled to $32,000 for joint gifts made by a married couple. Estates can be reduced significantly with planned use of the annual gift tax exclusion. For instance, if a taxpayer and a spouse give the maximum $16,000 to five relatives for five years in a row, they will have transferred $800,000 ($32,000 x 5 x 5) out of their estate, free of taxes.

Unified estate and gift tax exemption. In addition to the annual gift exemption, gifts may be sheltered from tax by the unified estate and gift tax exemption. As of this writing, the exemption is $10 million, indexed for inflation, which brings it to $12.06 million in 2022. It is scheduled to drop to $5 million, plus inflation indexing, in 2026.

Using the exemption during the taxpayer’s lifetime reduces the available estate shelter upon death. These two provisions give even very wealthy taxpayers a great deal of flexibility regarding liquid assets.

The new case came about as a result of a resident of Pennsylvania, who executed a Power of Attorney (POA) in 2007, appointing his son as his agent. The son was authorized to give gifts in amounts not exceeding the annual gift tax exclusion. From 2007 to 2014, the son arranged annual gifts to his siblings and other family members, in accordance with the POA.

The father’s health began to fail in 2015 and he passed away on September 11. On September 6, five days before he died, the son wrote eleven checks, totaling $464,000 from the father’s investment account.

Some recipients deposited the checks before the decedent’s death, but others did not. Only one check was paid by the investment account before the decedent’s death.

The question before the Tax Court: are the gifts complete and removed from the decedent’s estate?

According to the IRS, any checks deposited before death should be excluded from the taxable estate, but the Tax Court looked to the state’s law to determine the outcome of the other checks. The Tax Court ruled the checks not deposited in time must be included in the decedent’s taxable estate.

The estate planning lesson to be learned? Timing matters. If checks are written as part of the plan to minimize taxes, they must be deposited promptly to ensure they will be considered as gifts and reduce the taxable estate.

Reference: accounting WEB (Aug. 26,2022) “Tax Court Says When Deathbed Gifts Are Complete”

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

Will Making a Gift Conflict with Medicaid? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

People usually make gifts for three reasons—because they enjoy giving gifts, because they want to protect assets, or minimize tax liability. However, gifting in one’s elder years can have expensive and unintended consequences, as reported in the article “IRS standards for gifting differ from Medicaid” from The News-Enterprise.

The IRS gift tax becomes expensive, if gifts are large. However, each individual has a lifetime gift exemption and, as of this writing, it is $12.06 million, which is historically high. A married couple may make a gift of $24.12 million. Most people don’t get anywhere near these levels. Those who do are advised to do estate and tax planning to protect their assets.

The current lifetime gift tax exemption is scheduled to drop to $5.49 million per person after 2025, unless Congress extends the higher exemption, which seems unlikely.

The IRS also allows an annual exemption. For 2022, the annual exemption is $16,000 per person. Anyone can gift up to $16,000 per person and to multiple people, without reducing their lifetime exemption.

People often confuse the IRS annual exclusion with Medicaid requirements for eligibility. IRS gift tax rules are totally different from Medicaid rules.

Medicaid does not offer an annual gift exclusion. Medicaid penalizes any gift made within 60 months before applying to Medicaid, unless there has been a specific exception.

For Medicaid purposes, gifts include outright gifts to individuals, selling property for less than fair market value, transferring assets to a trust, or giving away partial interests.

The Veterans Administration may also penalize gifts made within 36 months before applying for certain VA programs based on eligibility.

Gifting can have serious capital gains tax consequences. Gifts of real estate property to another person are given with the giver’s tax basis. When real property is inherited, the property is received with a new basis of fair market value.

For gifting high value assets, the difference in tax basis can lead to either a big tax bill or big tax savings. Let’s say someone paid $50,000 for land 40 years ago, and today the land is worth $650,000. The appreciation of the property is $600,000. If the property is gifted while the owner is alive, the recipient has a $50,000 tax basis. When the recipient sells the property, they will have to pay a capital gains tax based on the $50,000.

If the property was inherited, the tax would be either nothing or next to nothing.

Asset protection for Medicaid is complicated and requires the experience and knowledge of an elder law attorney. What worked for your neighbor may not work for you, as we don’t always know all the details of someone else’s situation.

Reference: The News-Enterprise (Aug. 6, 2022) “IRS standards for gifting differ from Medicaid”

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

How are Capital Gains in Irrevocable Trust Taxed? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Putting a home in an irrevocable trust may be done to protect the house from estate taxes, explains a recent article from Yahoo! Life titled “Do Irrevocable Trusts Pay the Capital Gains Tax?” However, what effect does this have on capital gains taxes?

An irrevocable trust is used to protect assets. Unlike a revocable trust, once an asset is placed within the trust, it is difficult to have the asset returned to the original owner. The trust is a separate legal entity and has its own taxpayer identification number.

Assets moved into a trust are permanently owned by the trust, until the trustee distributes assets to named beneficiaries or their heirs. Irrevocable trusts are often used to protect assets from litigation.

Capital gains taxes are the tax liabilities created when assets are sold. Typical assets subject to capital gains taxes include stocks, homes, businesses and collectibles. Capital gains taxes are usually lower than earned income taxes. For example, the top federal income tax rate is 37%, and the top capital gains tax rate is 20%. A single investor might pay no capital gains taxes if their taxable income is $41,675 or less (in 2022). Married copies filing joining also pay 0% capital gains if their taxable income is $83,350 or less.

Irrevocable trusts are the owners of assets in the trust until those assets are distributed, including any earned income. While it would seem that the irrevocable trust should pay taxes on earned income, this is not necessarily the case. If irrevocable trusts are required to distribute income to beneficiaries every year, then that makes the trust a pass-through entity. Beneficiaries pay taxes on the income they receive from the trust.

Capital gains are not considered income to such an irrevocable trust. Instead, any capital gains are treated as contributions to principal. Therefore, when a trust sells an asset and realizes a gain, and the gain is not distributed to beneficiaries, the trust pays capital gains taxes.

One of the tax benefits of home ownership is the ability to avoid the first $250,000 in capital gains profits on the sale of the home. For married couples filing jointly, the exemption is $500,000. The home must be a primary residence for two of the last five years.

What happens if you transfer your home to an irrevocable trust as part of your estate planning? Who pays the capital gains tax on the sale of a home in an irrevocable trust? Remember, the trust is a legal entity and not a person. The trust does not receive the $250,000 exemption.

Placing a home into an irrevocable trust can protect it from creditors and litigation, but when the home is sold, someone will have to pay the capital gains on the sale. Although irrevocable trusts are great for distributing assets to beneficiaries, they are also responsible for paying capital gains taxes.

An experienced estate planning attorney will help you to determine which is more important for your unique situation: protecting the home through the use of an irrevocable trust or getting the tax exemption benefit if the home sells.

Reference: Yahoo! Life (July 7, 2022) “Do Irrevocable Trusts Pay the Capital Gains Tax?”

 

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

Is Your Estate Plan Ready for Tax Changes? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

After December 1, 2025, the federal estate tax exemption will fall back to $5 million (indexed for inflation) from the current $12 million level. Now is the time to use available estate planning strategies and ensure that your plan factors in changes in tax law, advises a recent article titled “Are Clients’ Current Estate Plans Soundproof for the Future?” from Financial Advisor.

For many families, structured and leveraged gifting is one of the most useful wealth transfer vehicles. A parent could use their GST and gift tax exemptions to make gifts to children, grandchildren and other family members before this tax law changes.

Here is an example, using a high-net-worth family. Bill and Sue are married, so they can make combined lifetime gifts of $24,120,000. They own a family business worth $10 million in equal shares. They transfer 20% of the business to their children. This is a minority stake, meaning the minority owners have no right to make relevant business decisions and vote on important issues. As a result, the minority stake is discounted and worth $1.3 million instead of $2 million for gift and estate tax purposes and Bill and Sue retain $700,000 more of their allotted exemption.

For lifetime transfers, the valuation date is the date of the gifting, but for transfers at death, the valuation date is the date of death. By using this valuation discount while they are living, Bill and Sue have reduced the value of their company for estate tax purposes, giving their children a percentage of the company in a manner costing less in terms of transfer tax.

By making these gifts in 2022, Bill and Sue have removed $24,120,000 from their estate tax free. They have also removed the appreciation on the assets gifted away from their estate. However—if the gift is not made and the federal estate tax exemption reduces to $6 million per person before their deaths in 2040, then when the second spouse dies, heirs or beneficiaries will receive significantly less than what they would have received if the gift was made prior to the reduction of the federal exemption.

There was concern about tax outcomes if the taxpayer makes gifts now and the exemptions are reduced sooner. However, the IRS Treasury Decision 9884 confirms there will be no claw backs under these circumstances.

If the parents are concerned about making outright gifts to chosen beneficiaries who are too young, immature, or vulnerable to creditors, other strategies can be used to allow them to maintain control, while protecting assets and locking in these estate and gift tax advantages. The grantor can execute a plan ensuring that the donor receives an income from the transferred asset and/or maintaining access to principal.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn what strategies are available now to prevent overly burdensome estate taxes in the future. After all, 2025 is not as far away as it seems.

Reference: Financial Advisor (June 8, 2022) “Are Clients’ Current Estate Plans Soundproof for the Future?”

 

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

What Is the Proposed IRS Anti-Clawback Provision? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The proposed amendment is designed to fix some loopholes in a 2019 regulation passed in response to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The 2017 law doubled the value of the estate and gift tax exemption until December 31, 2025, when it goes from $12.06 million to $5.49 million. According to this recent article from Financial Advisor titled “Amending The IRS’s Anti-Clawback Provision on Gifting,” the law generated concern among those who wanted to make large gifts to take advantage of the historically high federal estate and gift tax exemption.

The concern was whether the IRS would attempt to clawback the taxes, if the taxpayer died after 2025. This is when the estate tax reverts back to a much lower number. A regulation was issued in 2019 to reassure taxpayers and explain how they could take advantage of the high exemption as long as they made gifts before 2026, regardless of the exemption at the time of their death.

The IRS recognized this as a good step. However, it had a loophole and hence the new proposed amendment. The amendment provides clarity on what constitutes an actual gift. If the donor garners a benefit from the gift or maintains control over the gift, is it really a gift?

Giving the gift of a promissory note worth $12.06 million to lock in the high exemption and leaving it unpaid until death, for instance, is not a gift. The person is not actually giving anything away until after death. Therefore, the note is part of the taxable estate and bound by the estate tax exemption amount in place at the day of death.

The same goes for a person who gives ownership interests in a limited liability company, while continuing to serve as the company’s manager. Taxpayers must be very careful not to mischaracterize their gifts to stay on the right side of this regulation.

Another example: let’s say a person puts a $12 million vacation home into an LLC, with clear directions for home to be kept in the family, and then makes gifts of the LLC ownership interests to the children. If the donor wants those gifts to max out the current $12.06 million exemption, rather than be subject to the lower exemption in place at the date of death, the owner should not be the manager of the LLC. The same goes for the owner living rent-free in any property he’s gifted to anyone, if the wish is to take advantage of the gifting exemption.

In the same way, a mother who places money into a trust fund for a child may not serve as a trustee and control the assets and distributions, if she wishes to take advantage of the tax benefit.

If your estate plan uses grantor annuity trusts (GRATs), Grantor Retained Income Trusts (GRITs) and qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), speak with your estate planning attorney. If you die during the annuity period or term of the trust, your estate may lose the benefit of the anti-clawback regulation.

If the amendment is approved, which is expected in late summer, make sure your estate plan follows the new guidelines. If you are truly giving gifts before 2026, you will likely be able to take advantage of this substantial tax benefit and pass more of your estate to your heirs.

Reference: Financial Advisor (May 27, 2022) “Amending The IRS’s Anti-Clawback Provision on Gifting”

 

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

Is a Bypass Trust Necessary? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

A bypass trust removes a designated portion of an IRA or 401(k) proceeds from the surviving spouse’s taxable estate, while also achieving several tax benefits, according to a recent article titled “New Purposes for ‘Bypass’ Trusts in Estate Planning” from Financial Advisor.

Portability became law in 2013, when Congress permanently passed the portability election for assets passing outright to the surviving spouse when the first spouse dies. This allows the survivor to benefit from the unused federal estate tax exemption of the deceased spouse, thereby claiming two estate tax exemptions. Why would a couple need a bypass trust in their estate plan?

  • The portability election does not remove appreciation in the value of the ported assets from the surviving spouse’s taxable estate. A bypass trust removes all appreciation.
  • The portability election does not apply if the surviving spouse remarries, and the new spouse predeceases the surviving spouse. Remarriage does not impact a bypass trust.
  • The portability election does not apply to federal generation skipping transfer taxes. The amount could be subject to a federal transfer tax in the heir’s estates, including any appreciation in value.
  • If the decedent had debts or liability issues, ported assets do not have the protection against claims and lawsuits offered by a bypass trust.
  • The first spouse to die loses the ability to determine where the ported assets go after the death of the surviving spouse. This is particularly important when there are children from multiple marriages and parents want to ensure their children receive an inheritance.

This strategy should be reviewed in light of the SECURE Act 10-year maximum payout rule, since the outright payment of IRA and 401(k) plan proceeds to a surviving spouse is entitled to spousal rollover treatment and generally a greater income tax deferral.

Bypass trusts are also subject to the highest federal income tax rate at levels of gross income of as low as $13,550, and they do not qualify for income tax basis step-up at the death of the surviving spouse.

However, the use of IRC Section 678 in creating the bypass trust can eliminate the high trust income tax rates and the minimum exemption, also under Section 678, so the trust is not taxed the way a surviving spouse would be. There is also the potential to include a conditional general testamentary power of appointment in the trust, which can sometimes result in income tax basis step-up for all or a portion of the appreciated assets in the trust upon the death of the surviving spouse.

Every estate planning situation is unique, and these decisions should only be made after consideration of the size of the IRA or 401(k) plan, the tax situation of the surviving spouse and the tax situation of the heirs. An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to review each situation to determine whether or not a bypass trust is the best option for the couple and the family.

Reference: Financial Advisor (Feb. 1, 2022) “New Purposes for ‘Bypass’ Trusts in Estate Planning”

 

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

Can You Get a Tax Deduction for Giving a Gift? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Despite multiple proposals and countless legislative revisions, changes to everything from realizations of gains at death, lower federal transfer tax exemptions, raised estate tax rates and eliminating benefits of irrevocable grantor trusts, to name a few, have failed to become reality. However, that does not mean the proposals have disappeared for good, according to the article “Five Situations When Taxable Gifts Make Sense” from Wealth Management. In this environment, estate planning still needs to be done, although the tools to do so may be slightly different in case the tax laws change—or if they don’t.

Here are five different situations where making taxable gifts over the current $16,000 gift tax annual exclusion makes sense.

If you want to make a gift. You may want to make a gift, so a child can buy a home or start a business venture. Perhaps you want to bring a child into the ownership of a family business, or you simply want to share your wealth, more than the $16,000 exclusion. The federal gift tax exemption has never been this high, and the only tax downside might be the need to file a gift tax return.

What about the Step Up in Basis? The main reason not to make taxable gifts now is the step-up in income tax basis. Under current rules, assets transferred at death receive a step-up in income tax basis to the value at the time of death. Assets transferred by gift do not receive this benefit. If you wanted to give a $2 million property with a $100,000 tax basis, you will need to be prepared for the tax consequences.

Do you own rapidly appreciating assets? The main reason to make taxable gifts concerns appreciation. If your estate is well over the estate tax exemption, your heirs will save 40 cents for every dollar of appreciation, better in the hands of heirs rather than part of your estate. In this case, giving early makes all the difference. Business owners may give stock based on the growth they hope to achieve for a company.

Do you have a very large estate with high-basis assets and haven’t used your exemption? By all means, be generous! Under the current rules, even with no legislative changes, everything will be cut in half in 2026.

Are you sure your tax liability is going to increase in the future? Then making gifts today will help in the future.

Gifting can be a good way to spread income among family members, while avoiding having assets subject to a wealth tax. Gifting may also work to establish structures, like irrevocable grantor trusts or family limited partnerships, which might be more complicated in the future.

It is hard to say what the transfer tax rules will be five, fifteen, or fifty-five years from now. However, there are situations where making significant gifts makes sense. Remember, while the only sure things in life are death and taxes, tax laws do change.

Reference: Wealth Management (Feb. 2, 2022) “Five Situations When Taxable Gifts Make Sense”

 

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