The prospect of tax reform as proposed by House and Senate Republicans in November 2017 may make you believe that the estate tax will either be limited to a smaller segment of the population, or it will be headed for an eventual repeal. If history is an indication of the future, any changes to transfer taxes will be short-lived.
For more than 100 years, the U.S. estate tax has been on a rollercoaster ride, reaching as high as 70 percent in the 1980s to a low of zero during a brief repeal in 2010. For 2018, the IRS has announced that a 40 percent tax rate would apply to the value of a decedent’s estate that exceeds $5.6 million for individuals or $11.2 million for married couples filing joint tax returns. The House GOP’s proposal, however, calls for the exemption from estate tax to apply to double that amount, or $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples, with an eventual phase-out of the tax by 2024. Conversely, the Senate’s plan calls for the doubling of the exemption with a continuation of the 40 percent estate tax on estates that exceed the exemption amount.
In these uncertain times, families that wish to maintain their wealth must prepare for a gamut of possibilities. One estate planning tool that successfully removes the income and transfer tax drag on investment property is a family legacy trust. Commonly referred to as an intentionally defective irrevocable trusts (IDITs) or a spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT), a family legacy trust can provide a family with a complete exemption from transfer taxes for 360 years, and, when executed correctly, it may also allow the grantor to pay income taxes for the trust during his or her lifetime.
The first generation family member who built substantial wealth establishes a trust or trusts for the benefit of his or her heirs and spouse. During his or her lifetime, the grantor transfers assets to the trust, either as a gift or a long-term loan with low-interest rate repayment terms, which essentially removes those assets from his or her estate for federal estate tax purposes.
The trust may then create a family-controlled partnership or LLC structure to invest in real estate property using the assets provided by the grantor for the benefit of his or her spouse and heirs. Not only may the trust, and by extension the trust beneficiaries, receive 100 percent of funds required to finance a property acquisition, it may also retain 100 percent of the investment profits as a passive investor in the real estate holding entity. The income tax responsibilities for profits generated by the trust would fall to the grantor, who would receive from the trust repayments of his or her loan, plus interest. In essence, the grantor would be able to pay applicable income taxes with money that will be subject to an estate tax at his or her death. As a result, the trust assets would be allowed to grow at a faster pace since all tax drag has been eliminated during the grantors lifetime.
Despite the benefits of potentially freezing the value of an individual’s estate while transferring wealth to future generations, a family legacy trust may not be for everyone. For one, exposing future generations to a potential estate tax is not a priority for all high-net-worth investors. Perhaps family matriarchs or patriarchs are more concerned with managing cash flow through their retirement years, or they plan to leave significant assets to a charity at their passing.
Because estate planning is a complex matter, the only way to know if a family legacy trust is right for you is to meet with experienced professionals. This includes financial advisors who can assess your own unique circumstances and make appropriate recommendations to meet the long-term goals of you and your family members.
The professionals with Provenance Wealth Advisors work closely with families in the U.S. and overseas to develop comprehensive estate plans that overcome complexities, maximize wealth building opportunities and help meet desired goals.
About the Author: Scott Montgomery, CLU®, ChFC®, is a director with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. For more information, call (954) 712-8888 or email email@example.com.
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Scott Montgomery is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
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