What’s Involved with Being a Trustee? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There is an old saying that the two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat and the day they sell it.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “How To Be An Effective Trustee” says that a similar notion applies to being a trustee – it is an honor to be named and then a huge relief when it is over. That is because being a trustee is difficult.

Remember that a trust is a fiduciary relationship in which one party (the trustor) gives another party (the trustee) the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary). Trusts are created to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets, to make certain those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the trustor, and to save time, reduce paperwork and, in some cases, avoid or reduce inheritance or estate taxes.

Being a trustee requires knowledge about a wide range of topics, including:

  • The trustee’s fiduciary duties, which include loyalty, impartiality, duty of care, protection of trust property, enforcement of claims and the duty to inform and account to beneficiaries, among others (violation of these duties exposes the trustee to liability).
  • Understanding the details of the trust, like the specifics of the distribution instructions.
  • Investments and the ability to engage and monitor investment managers.
  • Administrative matters, such as record keeping and principal and income accounting.
  • Estate planning, trusts and the basics of the estate, gift and generation skipping taxes.
  • Income tax, including how trusts are taxed both by the federal government and the state.

A trustee must also be able to productively communicate and work with the beneficiaries on their financial wellness and distribution needs, which is an area that can be full of conflict.

It is a daunting list. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your situation in detail.

Reference: Forbes (May 31, 2022) “How To Be An Effective Trustee”

 

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

What Is the Best Asset Protection? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Everyone should have an estate plan incorporating asset protection and tax planning. Most people do not 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 is 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 has 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 do not 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 need an estate plan to address their legacy, protect their assets and defend their estate against risks.

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

 

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