The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions (i.e., those deductions subject to a 2% floor) from 2018 through 2025, creating an incentive for taxpayers to try and characterize their expenses as giving rise to itemized deductions rather than miscellaneous itemized deductions. General discussion of the new tax law has overlooked this repeal’s impact on estates and non-grantor trusts (i.e., most irrevocable trusts), including a time-sensitive planning opportunity.
Prior to the new legislation, an individual could claim miscellaneous itemized deductions for certain types of expenses that were not specifically enumerated in Internal Revenue Code Section 67. These expenses were not deductible until they exceeded 2% of an individual’s adjusted gross income. Expenses specifically enumerated in Section 67 were itemized deductions not subject to the same 2% floor, making them more attractive to taxpayers than miscellaneous itemized deductions. The new legislation suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions but keeps itemized deductions (subject to certain other restrictions not relevant here). (more…)
“Portability” is the ability of a surviving spouse to use not only his or her own estate tax exemption, but also some or all of the exemption of the first spouse to die, as long as the first spouse died in 2011 or later. With the estate tax exemption for 2017 at $5,490,000, this can allow estates of nearly $11,000,000 to escape estate tax. While a full discussion of portability is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that portability can save the day in one or more of these situations: if proper estate planning has not been done, if life insurance, IRAs or retirement plans left to the surviving spouse constitute a very large portion of a couple’s assets, or if a couple’s assets of any type are worth near the value of one exemption but less than both (e.g., $4,500,000 to $10,500,000).
The catch is that if the deceased spouse’s assets are worth less than his or her exemption amount, the deceased spouse’s executor has to file a federal estate tax return (Form 706) for the deceased spouse to “claim” the deceased spouse’s unused exemption and thus invoke “portability.” This is the direct opposite of the normal rule that if a decedent’s estate is worth less than the estate tax exemption amount (after taking lifetime gifts into account), no estate tax return filing is necessary. But if the deceased spouse’s executor does not file a timely estate tax return for the deceased spouse (nine months after the date of death, or an additional six months thereafter if a request for an extension was properly filed by the nine month deadline), the ability to use portability is permanently lost. (more…)
Ever wondered what will happen to your Facebook page when you die? The California Legislature has recently weighed in. Effective as of January 1, 2017, California will have its first law to specifically address the handling of your “digital assets” after your death. The Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act will determine who, if anyone, can access your digital assets, such as social media accounts, online gaming accounts and music accounts after your death. Under the new law, the custodian of digital assets – such as Facebook, Google, or Apple – must provide a fiduciary access to a deceased individual’s digital assets as the decedent previously directed. The Act sets up a three-tiered approach, which works as follows: (more…)
On August 2, 2016, the Treasury Department issued proposed regulations under Section 2704 of the Internal Revenue Code. The proposed regulations, if adopted in their current form, essentially will eliminate all minority discounts or lack of control discounts and lack of marketability discounts for transfers between family members of interests in family-controlled businesses.
The proposed regulations accomplish this result in complex ways. But here are some points to consider as you decide whether to act quickly.
The regulations are “proposed.” This means that they are not currently in effect. The Internal Revenue Service has scheduled a public hearing on the regulations in Washington, DC on December 1, 2016. They take effect when the IRS announces that they are “final.” Thus, these regulations could take effect shortly after the hearing, sometime in 2017, years from now, or never (in theory). The IRS may change the regulations in meaningful ways before adopting them as final. (more…)
The Internal Revenue Service has issued important new guidance that can allow a charitable remainder annuity trust (CRAT) to qualify under Internal Revenue Code section 664 in a low-interest environment.
Section 664 confers substantial tax benefits on charitable remainder trusts that meet its requirements. These are irrevocable trusts that during their term distribute a formula amount to one or more non-charitable beneficiaries, with the remainder distributed to charity upon termination of the trusts. There are two allowable formulas. A charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) distributes a fixed percentage of the value of trust assets determined every year. There are some allowable variations for CRUT distributions, but in general this means that distributions from a CRUT can go up or down from year to year, depending on increases or decreases in the value of trust assets. While CRUTs are by far the more popular of the two main varieties, some clients and donors prefer the CRAT, which distributes the same amount every year during its term, which is fixed at the time the trust is created and which must be at least 5% of the value of assets contributed to the trust. (more…)
Often times, people believe their wills (or other estate planning documents) are really simple and straight forward. In fact, this assumption is probably the primary reason that some websites generate significant business selling legal documents prepared by non-lawyers. Such websites seek to create simple documents and offer to purportedly save consumers lots of money. (more…)
Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014, and it did not take long for litigation to be filed over his estate, or more specifically, his living trust. Mr. Williams last rewrote his trust in January 2012, not long after marrying his current wife. Mr. Williams had three children, none of which were from his current marriage. Published reports reveal a number of interesting issues, some of which are unique to “celebrity” estates, but most of which apply to all estate planning. (more…)
One of the most important tax attributes of charitable remainder trusts is that they are exempt from income tax – except, that is, when it comes to unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) of these trusts. For decades the rule was that if a CRT had any UBTI at all, even an amount that was inconsequential compared to the overall net income of the trust, the trust would lose its tax exemption for the year, and become fully taxable just like any other complex trust. This rule could undo some of the best tax planning with CRTs, (more…)