A very interesting article in today’s NY Times Business Section. Estate planners will be surprised at the issues discussed.
“The answer: help rich people pay less in taxes. In the case of Mr. Black, the chief executive of Apollo Global Management, his advice could have been worth as much as $2 billion in savings, according to a law firm’s review of Mr. Black’s business dealings with Mr. Epstein….Mr. Epstein’s specialty was suggesting ways for wealthy clients to use sophisticated trusts and other investment vehicles to reduce their tax liability while passing on assets to their children, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with 11 people familiar with his work. In the process, he collected hefty fees — usually based on a cut of the anticipated tax savings….In Mr. Black’s case, according to the review by the law firm Dechert, the savings were enormous: about $1 billion for a single GRAT. Mr. Epstein’s detection of a problem in a trust set up in 2006 and his proposed solution were “the most valuable piece of work” that he performed, the report said. “Outside legal counsel described the solution as a ‘grand slam,’” according to the Dechert report, which was commissioned at Mr. Black’s request after The Times reported in October that he had paid Mr. Epstein at least $75 million in fees.”
An interesting article in today’s NY Times authored by Paul Sullivan. He writes, “So the question for taxpayers now is: What happens once Mr. Biden can begin enacting changes in tax policy? The biggest long-term change involves the estate tax.” Sullivan goes on to discuss the possible loss of step-up in basis, “A Biden administration may move to change this for logical and revenue reasons. Imagine trying to determine the capital gains from AT&T stock that your grandmother bought in 1943 when record-keeping was done with a pencil and paper. Today, cost-basis information can be retrieved in seconds.” He goes on to discuss some of the inherent problems in this approach.
A different approach could be adjustment to current estate tax exemptions and rates. “With Democrats controlling the legislative and executive branches, there is concern that the exemption level could drop to $5 million or even $3.5 million…For the wealthiest in the country, the bigger concern is the rate itself. It’s now at 40%, but it was as high as 55% in 2001.”
“Although the grantor of an irrevocable trust surrenders the right to revoke the trust and amend its terms, the restrictions are no longer as limiting as they once were. Alternatives to judicial modifications abound. From nonjudicial settlement agreements to new trends in decanting practices to innovations in modifications by consent, clients, trustees, and beneficiaries have many potential avenues for modifying an irrevocable trust to accomplish their legacy planning goals.”
“The novel coronavirus has led many people – trustees, trust beneficiaries and advisors alike – to relocate their primary workplace or residency for the time being, sometimes across state lines. An irrevocable trust’s situs, or place of administration, may be impacted as this migration continues through the pandemic and likely into the future. The results may be intentional or inadvertent, with each having its own benefits and risks that should be evaluated both opportunistically and out of an abundance of caution.”
“Critics had an immediate, and unsurprising, reaction, arguing that such taxes will push the wealthy to move to lower- or no-tax states. But is that true?
“While some wealthy people will move, proponents of these taxes argue, few will make good on the threat to move to Florida (with no state income tax) or, in New Jersey’s case, to Pennsylvania (where the state tax rate is one-third its neighbor’s rate). They argue that high earners and entrepreneurs have family and community ties that keep them from moving away.”
“As the 2020 presidential election approaches, uncertainty continues regarding the potential for tax legislation and changing market conditions, causing many to consider using current transfer tax exemptions with gifts before year-end. Individuals planning to transfer hard-to-value assets may wish to consider using a gift agreement with a defined value clause to shield against unwanted gift tax consequences.”
“The reciprocal trust doctrine can unwind legacy planning that involves mutually beneficial trusts; however, a careful and deliberate approach can shield transfers against application of the doctrine. In 2020, legacy planning for spouses and other related parties has focused largely on full use of their gift and estate tax exemptions due to the risk of prospective changes in the amounts of such exemptions. This type of planning often involves implementing mutually beneficial irrevocable trusts so that each party continues to have access to resources after the party gives assets away (e.g., spouses who each establish a spousal lifetime access trust (“SLAT”) for the benefit of the other spouse). However, such trusts can sometimes contravene the reciprocal trust doctrine, which applies to interrelated trusts that have substantially identical terms and are part of the same transaction or plan. While the facts of each case are unique, best practices indicate that related grantors vary several factors among the respective trust agreements to reduce the risk of reciprocal trust treatment.”
A very interesting article in the Business Section of the New York Times on Saturday, July 25th. On-Line in “Wealth Matters” the article is entitled, “Need Help With Your Estate Plan? Go With The Flow, Advisors Say.”
“As older adults face mortality during the pandemic, lawyers and wealth advisers are using color-coded documents and flowcharts to help them understand estate planning.” Andrew D. Hendry, vice chairman and general counsel for Colgate-Palmolive understood complicated legal documents. “But when it came to his estate plan, Mr. Hendry, like many others, was not terribly interested in digging through hundreds of pages of legal documents….He found comfort in what his wealth adviser had created: a series of color-coded documents that laid out exactly who got what, when and why….‘I’m a lawyer, and I understand estate planning documents have to be pretty heavy for the estate plan to work. But they’re really not useful to make a decision….’ ‘More people are looking to review their estate plans if something happens, but it’s hard to keep track of everything without a schedule like this,’ said John J. Voltaggio, a managing wealth adviser at Northern Trust who creates color-coded charts and simple spreadsheets for his clients, including Mr. Hendry. ‘We have that on one page. And then we can ask, ‘Should we update any of it?’”
“Modern strategies for legacy planning with today’s clients were the focus of discussions at the 2020 Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. The 54th Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (the “Institute”) focused on the ongoing effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), including: (1) legal and regulatory developments concerning life insurance; (2) benefits and burdens of grantor and non-grantor trust status; (3) planning considerations for migratory clients; (4) state income taxation; (5) implications of the SECURE Act; and (6) planning for the generation-skipping transfer (“GST”) tax on nonexempt trusts.”
Paul Sullivan (Wealth Matters) writes today in the New York Times, “What needs to be analyzed for affluent individuals are the potential changes no candidate is talking about: lowering exemptions and raising rates for the estate and gift taxes and ending the valuation discount for closely held family businesses, a tax break that allows families to transfer a valuable asset for less than it is worth.”