Posts tagged with "trust and estates"

What happens if I die without a will in Connecticut?

After someone dies, attention naturally shifts to the decedent’s survivors, property and wishes. A probate court (also called a surrogate court) is a specialized court that handles distribution of the decedent’s property and ensures that any debts, funeral expenses and taxes are paid prior to distributing the remaining assets. If there is a will, the decedent’s wishes are carried out and the process is typically straight forward. However, if there isno will, distribution of property is awarded to survivors in accordance with the state’slaws of “intestacy.”

In Connecticut, if you are survived by a spouse and children, your spouse takes the first $100,000 plus half of the remainder and your children take the other half of the remainder. If you are survived by a spouse and children who are not your spouse’s children, your spouse takes half and the children share the other half equally. If you are survived by a spouse and parent(s) but no children, your spouse takes the first $100,000 plus three quarters of the remainder and the parent(s) takes the other one quarter. If you are survived by a spouse only, your spouse takes it all. If you are survived by children only, your children take it all. If you are survived by parent(s) only, your parent(s) take it all. If you are survived by brother(s) and sister(s) only, your brother(s) and sister(s) take it all. If you are survived by next of kin only, your next of kin takes it all. If there is no next of kin but there is a step-child, your step-child takes it all. If there is no step-child, it all goes to the State of Connecticut.

Regardless of the value of your property, it is always in your best interest to have a will.If you have a will, it may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance. If you die without a will, your money and property may not be distributed as you had wished. If you are unmarried but have a partner, he or she cannot inherit your property without a will. If you have children who are minors, you will need a will so that living and financial arrangements are as you had wished in the event of your death. If youor your former partner’s circumstances have changed and there is a new partner in the picture, you may want to have a will to ensure your property is distributed as you’d wished.

Maya Murphy Attorneys at Law can provide you with estate planning with artfully crafted trusts and tax avoidance. We know that clients want peace of mind for the future. Our experienced attorneys will help you map out a plan so that your family is properly cared for in the event of your death. Please call us at 203-221-3100, or email us at Ask@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Continue Reading

What happens if I die without a will in Connecticut?

After someone dies, attention naturally shifts to the decedent’s survivors, property and wishes. A probate court (also called a surrogate court) is a specialized court that handles distribution of the decedent’s property and ensures that any debts, funeral expenses and taxes are paid prior to distributing the remaining assets. If there is a will, the decedent’s wishes are carried out and the process is typically straight forward. However, if there isno will, distribution of property is awarded to survivors in accordance with the state’slaws of “intestacy.”

In Connecticut, if you are survived by a spouse and children, your spouse takes the first $100,000 plus half of the remainder and your children take the other half of the remainder. If you are survived by a spouse and children who are not your spouse’s children, your spouse takes half and the children share the other half equally. If you are survived by a spouse and parent(s) but no children, your spouse takes the first $100,000 plus three quarters of the remainder and the parent(s) takes the other one quarter. If you are survived by a spouse only, your spouse takes it all. If you are survived by children only, your children take it all. If you are survived by parent(s) only, your parent(s) take it all. If you are survived by brother(s) and sister(s) only, your brother(s) and sister(s) take it all. If you are survived by next of kin only, your next of kin takes it all. If there is no next of kin but there is a step-child, your step-child takes it all. If there is no step-child, it all goes to the State of Connecticut.

Regardless of the value of your property, it is always in your best interest to have a will.If you have a will, it may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance. If you die without a will, your money and property may not be distributed as you had wished. If you are unmarried but have a partner, he or she cannot inherit your property without a will. If you have children who are minors, you will need a will so that living and financial arrangements are as you had wished in the event of your death. If youor your former partner’s circumstances have changed and there is a new partner in the picture, you may want to have a will to ensure your property is distributed as you’d wished.

Maya Murphy Attorneys at Law can provide you with estate planning with artfully crafted trusts and tax avoidance. We know that clients want peace of mind for the future. Our experienced attorneys will help you map out a plan so that your family is properly cared for in the event of your death. Please call us at 203-221-3100, or email us at Ask@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Continue Reading

Utilizing Valuation Discounts for Gift Tax Savings: The Family LLC

This memorandum discusses the advantages of using gifts of fractional ownership interests in a family limited liability company (“LLC”) to defer or reduce gift and estate taxes. A family limited liability company can be used as an estate planning tool to “leverage” gifts to the next generation. The leverage is created by valuation discounts that apply to gifts of interests in a family LLC.

For gift tax purposes, the value used in determining the amount of a gift is fair market value, generally defined as the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of the facts. Ownership of an interest in an entity such as a family LLC, whether a majority or minority interest, generally will result in a lower valuation for estate and gift tax purposes than the outright ownership of assets outside of the entity. Lower valuations result because minority interest and lack of marketability valuation discounts are allowed for transfers of interests in closely held corporations and limited partnerships.

A minority interest is any ownership interest in an entity such as a family LLC that lacks voting control over the entity, such that the member has no unilateral power to determine the timing of distributions, to force a liquidation of the LLC, or to control the management of the LLC. A marketability discount generally applies to majority and minority interests in a LLC due to the illiquid nature of such interests. A combined marketability and minority interest discount may approach fifty percent.

The following example illustrates the advantages of utilizing valuation discounts
in gifts of Family LLC interests:

Suppose Mom and Dad own real estate worth $1,000,000.00. They wish to make partial gifts of this real estate to their four children to take advantage of the $13,000.00 annual exclusion under Internal Revenue Code § 2503(a). Mom and Dad decide to establish a family LLC to own the real estate. Each receives a 50% interest in the LLC upon contribution of the real estate to the LLC. Mom and Dad are appointed managers, which gives them the power to make all decisions regarding the management and operation of the LLC. After establishing the LLC for substantial business reasons, and after the LLC has been in existence for some time, Mom and Dad make a gift of 19.2% of their interests in the LLC, by giving a 4.8% interest to each of their four children.

Each gift of an interest in the LLC is entitled to a minority interest discount, because each child lacks control of the entity. Each gift is also entitled to a lack of marketability discount because each interest in the LLC is highly illiquid, and no child has the power to liquidate the LLC. Assuming for purposes of this example a total discount of fifty percent, the fair market value of the 4.8% gift made to each child is only $24,000.00, even though 4.8% of the underlying assets in the LLC is $48,000.00. Thus, the gift tax exclusion has been “leveraged” using the LLC because $48,000.00 in underlying asset value has been transferred to each child without gift tax cost and without using any unified credit.

As the real estate owned by the LLC increases in value, such increase in value
will be reflected in Mom’s and Dad’s estates only to the extent of their remaining interest in the LLC. Furthermore, after the gifts Mom and Dad each owns only a 40.4% minority interest in the LLC. Each such interest lacks the power to liquidate the LLC, and would also be entitled to minority interest and lack of marketability discounts. Thus, significant gift and estate tax savings can be achieved by using a family LLC, although at the “cost” to Mom and Dad of foregoing the income that otherwise would have been received on the 19.2% that has been given away to the children.

Because of many recent court cases involving the use of family limited liability companies and family limited partnerships, a careful analysis in each instance is needed before interests in a family entity are gifted. Moreover, in most situations a professional appraisal is needed to value both the company’s underlying assets and the fair market value of the interests gifted. The cost of such appraisals must be considered when a decision is make to implement the use of family entities as a part of one’s estate plan.

Continue Reading

Zeroed-Out GRATs: A Must For Those With Substantial Assets

Under a GRAT, a grantor creates a trust and transfers property to the trust and retains an annuity payable for a term of years. At the end of the term, the trust property will go to the trust’s beneficiaries (either outright or in trust for their benefit). The initial transfer of property to the trust constitutes a gift for tax purposes which will eat up a person’s lifetime exemption amount. The value of the gift, however, is calculated based on actuarial tables based on the life of the grantor and based on interest rates published by the IRS (also known as the “hurdle rate”). Because of this, if assets transferred to the trust appreciate at a rate faster than the hurdle rate the grantor can transfer the excess appreciation, free of gift tax, to the grantor’s heirs. The major downside is that if the grantor dies before the GRAT terms expires, all trust assets are included in the grantor’s estate–thereby causing the grantor to lose the opportunity to do other estate planning that might have successfully removed the property from the estate.

A Zeroed-Out GRAT comes into play when the value of what the grantor gets back in the form of the annuity (actually the present value of the annuity interest) is equal to the value of the property transferred. In this situation the grantor makes a large gift of property to the GRAT, but sets the annuity at an amount so that, for gift tax purposes, there will be nothing left to pass to the heirs at the end of the term. However, if the trust’s assets appreciate above the hurdle rate, there will be value and appreciation that will pass tax free to the children. By utilizing a Zeroed-Out GRAT, a grantor can pass large amounts of value to their children gift and estate tax free.
GRAT
But what if the assets you own have a volatile value and there is no guarantee that over many years there will be a net amount of appreciation? In this case, one can utilize what is called a series of Zeroed-Out “rolling” GRATs. Generally, this entails establishing a series of consecutive 2-year GRATs. Because the terms are so short, it reduces the likelihood of dying during the term. In addition, if there is a down swing in value it will only affect the GRAT for the 2 year term. If there is a subsequent upswing in value that exceeds the hurdle rate the value can be passed on to the heirs. In a sense, it is a one way ratchet that will pass on value to heirs when the assets appreciate.

As with all estate planning techniques, one must consider their unique family circumstances, their assets, and current law to determine whether a GRAT makes sense.

The helpful info graphic above visually explains the use of the rolling GRAT technique, making references to billionaire Sheldon Adelson (via Bloomberg News). Credit: Jared Callister

Keywords- GRATs, estate planning techniques, ct estate planning, trust and estates, tax free wealth transfer, tax free appreciation, grantor retained annuity trust

Continue Reading

Rolling GRATs: A Low Risk High Reward Estate Planning Tool

A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT) can be an effective wealth transfer technique without incurring a gift tax or utilizing one’s lifetime gift tax exemption. A risk, however, with a long-term GRAT is if the Grantor dies prior to the expiration of its term. Death of the Grantor would subject the trust assets, including any income and appreciation, to estate tax. To reduce the mortality risk (especially for elderly clients or for those with health concerns), there is an estate planning technique that utilizes shorter-term GRATs.

The “Rolling GRAT” technique involves creating a series of consecutive short-term GRATs (typically 2 to 3 years) with each successive GRAT funded by the previous trust’s annuity payments. Rolling GRATs minimize the risk of mortality during the term and thereby increases the success of transferring wealth. Two years is the shortest amount allowable by the IRS according to recent revenue rulings. These short-term GRATs can take advantage of asset volatility by capturing rapid appreciation in assets such as a rapid increase in stock value (i.e. Tesla). In fact, research on GRATs funded with publicly traded stock showed that a series of rolling GRATs outperformed an identical long-term GRAT, regardless of the 7520 rate at time of creation. The study showed that the short-term GRAT strategy minimized the risk that good investment performance in one year would be offset by poor performance in another year. Rolling GRATs also keep more funds committed to the estate planning strategy.

If the short-term GRAT strategy is effective (assets appreciate faster than the IRS Section 7520 rate within the trust term), wealth is removed from the taxable estate and transferred to beneficiaries at little cost. If the strategy is not effective (assets did not outperform the IRS Section 7520 rate), all of the assets would go back to the Grantor in form of the annuity payments and none of the lifetime gift tax exemption would be wasted. Thus, almost no risk, but the potential for very high reward.

Rolling GRATs also offer the advantage of plan and strategy flexibility. The Grantor can stop the rolling process at any time and for any reason. For example, the Grantor may wish to stop if he or she needs the income from the trust assets, no longer has an estate tax concern, wants to transfer wealth to the beneficiaries sooner, the assets’ growth rate drops too low, or his or her health has deteriorated and is not expected to live for another 2 or 3 years. The disadvantage of a short-term GRAT is that a particularly low Section 7520 rate will not be locked in long-term.

While Rolling GRATs offer advantages for liquid assets, such as publicly traded stock, illiquid or hard-to-value assets are better suited for long-term GRATs. In particular, illiquid assets would require frequent valuations that may be subjective, cumbersome and costly.
It is important to note that a provision in the President Obama’s 2014 Budget seeks to eliminate the use of short-term GRATs. The proposal would require that any new GRAT have a minimum term of 10 years and would require that the remainder interest have a value greater than zero at the time the interest is created. This minimum 10 year term would not eliminate the use of GRATs, but it would increase the risk that the grantor would fail to outlive the GRAT term and lose the anticipated transfer tax benefit.

Continue Reading

Is a No-Contest Clause Right for Your Will?

In order to discourage disappointed heirs from disputing your estate plan, you can include a “no-contest” provision that automatically cancels an heir’s inheritance if he or she challenges the distribution of your assets in any way. You are not obligated to leave property to anyone. The original reasoning for the no-contest provision was to intimidate any heir who may consider contesting a will or trust, thereby securing his or her cooperation.

“No-contest” clauses can be broad or narrow, and may even disinherit people who challenge transfers made outside your will (through a trust or beneficiary designation).

Of course, you cannot make a bequest of property you don’t own, but you can often provide in a will that a beneficiary will only receive your bequest if they abandon their rights in some other property. In a recent case, a court was asked to decide whether a refusal to abandon such rights would constitute a “will contest” that would void other gifts. When a testator died, he left a complex estate plan that included a will, a trust, and beneficiary designations for his retirement account. The testator’s wife legally owned part of his retirement account and other “community property.” The testator’s will and trust required his wife to abandon her “community property” rights in order to receive benefits worth $2.65 million from her husband’s trust.

The wife filed a special petition with the court, asking whether she would be viewed as “contesting” the estate plan if she sought to enforce her community property rights. The wife claimed that her husband had mistakenly transferred some community assets to his own trust, and she was merely trying to correct the mistake. On appeal, the Court ruled that the wife’s challenges would constitute a “contest.” Therefore, she had to decide whether to assert her “community property” rights (and thus receive only her share of community property, and nothing from her husband’s trust) or simply accept the provisions of the trust and will (thus sacrificing her “community property” rights).

This case illustrates an important issue. If you make a mistake in your estate plan, a “no-contest” clause in a will or trust may prevent your heirs from correcting the mistake. On the other hand, if you don’t include a “no-contest” clause, an heir might contest your estate plan, thus delaying the distribution of your assets, and frustrating your goals. There are many such issues with Estate Planning that require careful planning and expertise to avoid.

In most cases, a “no-contest” clause does make sense. However, as the example in this article illustrates, you want to be careful when doing your estate plan in order to avoid unnecessary problems for your heirs. Seeking competent advice is more often than not well worth the price paid

Continue Reading

2014 Estate & Gift Tax Limits Adjusted For Inflation

Starting next year, people who have done some estate planning and made the maximum tax-free transfers to their families (and those thinking about doing it) can take another crack at it. Beginning January 1st 2014, the amount folks can pass on during life (and at their death) completely free from federal estate tax will increase by an additional $90,000.

Using the Consumer Price Index data for the most recent month and the preceding 11 months, the tax experts at Research Institute of America calculated and reported increases for 2014 to a number of tax limits including the income where the various marginal tax brackets apply, the standard deduction amounts, the personal exemption amount, and a number of other items. They also calculated adjusted amounts for the various estate tax and gift tax limits that will apply in 2014.

Gift tax limits rise in 2013
2013 tax rules than can save you money
Reducing taxes on IRA payouts

Here are a few of the new limits that affect tax free gifts made in 2014:

Unified estate and gift tax exclusion amount. For gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2014, the exclusion amount will be $5,340,000 (up from $5,250,000 for gifts made and estates of decedents dying in 2013).

This means that in 2014, each person has a credit that can be used to offset the estate tax on a taxable estate of up to $5.34 million of assets. The practical application of this is that individuals can make gifts during life or transfers at death of up to this new higher limit and pay no federal estate tax. Also, new last year is that spouses may combine their unused individual credit amounts and pass on assets free of estate tax on a taxable estate of up to $10.68 million at the death of the second spouse, assuming none of these credits were used during their lifetimes.

Other estate limits that change in 2014 include:

Generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption. The exemption from GST tax will be $5,340,000 for transfers in 2014 (up from $5,250,000 for transfers in 2013).

Increased annual exclusion for gifts to non-citizen spouses. For gifts made in 2014, the annual exclusion for gifts to non-citizen spouses will be $145,000 (up from $143,000 for 2013).

Foreign earned income exclusion. The foreign earned income exclusion amount increases to $99,200 in 2014 (up from $97,600 in 2013).

Gift tax annual exclusion. For gifts made in 2014, the gift tax annual exclusion will be $14,000 (same as for gifts made in 2013). Generally the amount that can be given to any individual each year that is excluded from the gift tax is $14,000 per person per year. In 2014, this amount is projected to remain at $14,000 per person as the amount that may be gifted annually free from the gift tax. Parents may also use the technique of “gift splitting” or combining gifts to a child, whereby they can each make a gift of $14,000, for a total amount of tax free gifts made of $28,000 to a single person or child each year.

credit-Ray Martin

If you have any questions about this information, or if you would like to speak with one of Maya Murphy’s experienced estate planning attorneys, call 203-221-3100 or email rsweeting@mayalaw.com today!

Continue Reading

DSUE: The Deceased Spouse’s Unused Exclusion

Many individuals have no idea what the DSUE is. Well, it is a fairly simple term when you break it down. Every individual gets an exclusion amount for estate and gift taxes that is adjusted for inflation, last year is was $5,250,000. That means that on death, or during life, an individual can devise, bequeath, or gift up to that amount without generating any tax liability. (Gifts must be under the annual exclusion amount of $14,000 in order to not be subjected to a 40% tax). If you are married, you and your spouse can combine your exclusion amounts or, when one spouse passes away with some of their exclusion left, the other spouse may use that. This is called portability and the unused amount is called the deceased spouse’s unused exclusion (DSUE for short).

For example, imagine you and your spouse have used none of your exclusion amounts. Now, one spouse passes away and their estate is $2,250,000. The deceased spouse’s estate will not be subject to estate tax because they had an exclusion amount of $5,250,000 in 2013. Therefore, the spouse had $3,000,000 left after their estate was settled. If the surviving spouse, or their executor makes the election, they may use the remaining $3,000,000 from their deceased spouse’s estate in addition to their $5,250,000. This means they can exclude up to $8,250,000 from estate, gift, and generation skipping transfer tax. The DSUE is thus “portable.”

While no estate planner relies on portability (because the government can change the law at any time), it is definitely a useful tool for those with large enough estates to utilize it. In 2013, the government set forth legislation to make portability “permanent” for the foreseeable future.

For more on the DSUE and portability see this article: Lewis Saret, Estate Tax Portability – Date DSUE Amount May Be Taken Into Account, Forbes, Jan. 14, 2014.

Or, if you would like to speak with one of Maya Murphy’s experienced estate planners call 203-221-3100. The head of our estate planning division can also be reached by email at rsweeting@mayalaw.com

Continue Reading