Does a Beneficiary have to Pay Taxes on 401(k)? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There are many complicated rules for inheriting assets in the form of retirement plans, workplace plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), says a recent article titled “How Much 401(k) Inheritance Taxes Will Really Cost You” from The Madison Leader-Gazette. Any assets passed from one person to another in the form of a 401(k) are taxable. You’ll want to be prepared.

How are Inherited 401(k)s Taxed?

The inheritance rule for 401(k) tax usually follows the same path as the rules used when making contributions or withdrawals to tax deferred retirement plans. When a person dies, their 401(k) becomes part of their taxable estate.

This means that any taxes due on earnings not paid during the person’s lifetime need to be paid.

Traditional 401(k) plans are funded with pre-tax dollars. This is great for the saver, who gets to defer paying taxes while they are working. When they retire, withdrawals are taxed at their ordinary income tax rate, which is typically lower than when they are working.

There is an exception with Roth 401(k)s, where contributions are made with after-tax dollars and qualified withdrawals are tax free.

How the IRS taxes an inherited 401(k) depends on three factors:

  • The relationship between the account owner and the heir
  • The age of the heir
  • How old the account owner was at the time of death.

Who Pays Taxes on an inherited 401(k)?

The beneficiary who inherits the 40(k) is responsible for paying the tax. They are taxed at the heir’s ordinary income tax rate. This could push the heir into a higher tax bracket.

What Should I Do with an Inherited 401(k)?

If your spouse was the original owner, you may leave the money in the plan and take regular distributions, paying income tax on the withdrawals. You may also roll it over into your own 401(k) or to an IRA. This allows the money to continue to grow tax free, until withdrawals are taken.

Can I Avoid Taxes on an Inherited 401(k)?

The only way to avoid taxes on inherited 401(k) would be to disclaim the inheritance, at which point the 401(k) would be passed to the contingent beneficiary. If you don’t need the money, don’t want the tax headaches, or would rather see it go to another family member, this is an option. Most people pay the taxes.

Planning For Taxes When Creating an Estate Plan

Talk with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys about your taxable assets and how to manage the tax liabilities to your heirs. There are numerous tools to address these and related issues. Your heirs will be grateful for your foresight and care.

Reference: The Madison Leader Gazette (July 29, 2022) “How Much 401(k) Inheritance Taxes Will Really Cost You”

 

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

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”

 

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

Can Estate Planning Reduce Taxes? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

The estate tax exemption won’t always be so high. The runup in housing prices may mean capital gains taxes will become a serious issue for many people. There are solutions to be found in estate planning, including one known as an “Upstream Power of Appointment” Trust, as explained in the article “How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!” from Kiplinger.

The strategy is not for everyone. It requires a completely trustworthy, elderly and less wealthy relative, such as a parent, aunt, or uncle, to serve as an additional trust beneficiary. First, here is some background information:

Basis: This is the amount by which a price is reduced to determine the taxable gain. This is often the historical cost of an asset, which may be adjusted for depreciation or other items. Estate planning attorneys are familiar with these terms.

Step-up (in-basis): If you bought a house for $100,000 and sold it for $400,000, your taxable gain would be $300,000. However, if the house had belonged to your father and was being sold to distribute assets between you and your siblings, the basis (cost) would be increased to the fair market value at the date of your father’s passing. This increase is known as the “step-up in basis” and here is the benefit: there would be no capital gain on the sale and no taxes owed.

Lifetime estate tax exemption: This is currently at $12.06 million per person or $24.12 for married couples. This is the amount of assets which can be passed to children or others free of any federal estate tax. However, the number will take a deep dive on January 1, 2026, when it reverts back to just under $6 million, adjusted for inflation. Plan for the change now, because 2026 will be here before you know it!

Upstream planning involves transferring certain appreciated assets to older or other family members with shorter life expectancies. Since the person is expected to die sooner, the basis step-up is triggered sooner. When the named person dies, you obtain a basis step-up on the asset, saving income taxes on depreciation and saving capital gains on a future sale of the property.

Most Americans are not worried about paying estate taxes now, but no one wants to pay too much in income taxes or capital gains taxes.

To make this happen, your estate planning attorney will need to give an elderly person (let’s say Aunt Rose) the general power of appointment over the asset. Section 2041 of the Internal Revenue Code says you may give your Aunt Rose a power to appoint the asset to her estate, creditors, or the creditors of her estate. Providing the power will include the value of the property in her estate, not yours, ensuring the basis step-up and income tax savings.

Do not do this lightly, as a general power of appointment also gives Aunt Rose ownership and the right to give the property to herself or anyone she wishes. Can you protect yourself, if Aunt Rose goes rogue?

While the IRC rule does not require Aunt Rose to get your permission to control or change distribution of the property, a trust can be crafted with a provision to effectuate the desired result. The IRC does not require Aunt Rose to know about this provision. This is why the best person for this role is someone who you know and trust without question and who understands your wishes and the desired outcome.

Proper planning with an experienced estate planning attorney is a must for this kind of transaction. All the provisions need to be right: the beneficiary need not survive for any stated period of time, you should not lose access to the assets receiving the basis increase, you want a formula clause to prevent a basis step down if the property or asset values fall and you want to be sure that assets are not exposed to creditor claims or any other liabilities of the person holding this broad power.

Reference: Kiplinger (July 3, 2022) “How to Use Your Estate Plan to Save on Taxes While You’re Still Alive!”

 

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

Should I Have a Roth IRA? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Roth IRAs are powerful retirement savings tools. Account owners are allowed to take tax-free distributions in retirement and can avoid paying taxes on investment growth. There is little downside to a Roth IRA, according to a recent article “10 Reasons to Save for Retirement in a Roth IRA” from U.S. News & World Report.

Taxes are paid in advance on a Roth IRA. Therefore, if you are in a low tax bracket now and may be in a higher bracket later, or if tax rates increase, you have already paid those taxes. Another plus: all your Roth IRA funds are available to you in retirement, unlike a traditional IRA when you have to pay income tax on every withdrawal.

Roth IRA distributions taken after age 59 ½ from accounts at least five years old are tax free. Every withdrawal taken from a traditional IRA is treated like income and, like income, is subject to taxes.

When comparing the two, compare your current tax rate to what you expect your tax rate to be once you have retired. You can also save in both types of accounts in the same year, if you are not sure about future tax rates.

Roth IRA accounts also let you keep investment gains, because you don’t pay income tax on investment gains or earned interest.

Roth IRAs have greater flexibility. Traditional IRA account owners are required to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from an IRA every year after age 72. If you forget to take a distribution, there is a 50% tax penalty. You also have to pay taxes on the withdrawal. Roth IRAs have no withdrawal requirements during the lifetime of the original owner. Take what you need, when you need, if you need.

Roth IRAs are also more flexible before retirement. If you are under age 59 ½ and take an early withdrawal, it will cost you a 10% early withdrawal penalty plus income tax. Roth early withdrawals also trigger a 10% penalty and income tax, but only on the portion of the withdrawal from investment earnings.

If your goal is to leave IRA money for heirs, Roth IRAs also have advantages. A traditional IRA account requires beneficiaries to pay taxes on any money left to them in a traditional 401(k) or IRA. However, those who inherit a Roth IRA can take tax-free withdrawals. Heirs have to take withdrawals. However, the distributions are less likely to create expensive tax situations.

Retirement savers can contribute up to $6,000 in a Roth IRA in 2022. Age 50 and up? You can make an additional $1,000 catch up contribution for a total Roth IRA contribution of $7,000.

If this sounds attractive but you have been using a traditional IRA, a Roth conversion is your next step. However, you will have to pay the income taxes on the amount converted. Try to make the conversion in a year when you are in a lower tax bracket. You could also convert a small amount every year to maintain control over taxes.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (April 11, 2022) “10 Reasons to Save for Retirement in a Roth IRA”

 

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