“Taxpayers should exercise caution in implementing ING trusts, particularly in light of California’s new law, which is effective retroactively. While the ING trust remains a viable wealth preservation strategy in many states, it is unclear how long this will continue. Taxpayers who implement this strategy are well advised to craft an exit strategy as well.”
Robert W. Finnegan has an excellent article in the current issue of Trusts & Estates (April, 2023) entitled, “The GRAT Enhancement Strategy.”
From the article:
Grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) have been a great wealth transfer success story…the shortcoming of successful GRATs is that their assets will be included in the children’s taxable estates.
With the GRAT enhancement strategy, the GRAT remainder makes a split dollar loan to a dynasty trust to purchase life insurance, moving appreciation of GRAT assets via the policy death benefit to the dynasty trust.
Finnegan provides a robust and detailed Case Study illustrating the benefits of this planning and concludes with “The GRAT enhancement strategy is a powerful wealth transfer tool in and of itself. It’s applicable to GRATs, staged distribution trusts and any trust in which the assets have been removed from the clients’ estates but will be taxed in the children’s estates. Clients may be more receptive to additional planning if they can minimize their involvement and expenses and use assets that have already been transferred.”
I highly recommend this article for your review and consideration.
Many ultra-high net worth clients used all of their available gift/estate and GST exemptions in 2020 or 2021. For an individual, the exemption increased by $120,000 in 2021, $360,000 in 2022 and is estimated to increase by $860,000 in in 2023. We can make assumptions for the increases in 2024 and 2025. What would it look like if we used the increases to fund additional life insurance. Click here to find out.
“Rising interest rates, degrading asset valuations, and future legislative uncertainty coupled with high wealth transfer tax exemptions mean it’s a great time to revisit installment sales and similar transactions using grantor trusts.”
“The IRS, clearly interested in intergenerational private split-dollar, attempted to secure a third victory. After Morrissette and Cahill, it looked like intergenerational split-dollar was trending the way of the dinosaurs. Then in Estate of Marion Levine, the Tax Court not only resurrected intergenerational split-dollar life insurance planning, but it also offered a roadmap for successfully structuring traditional private split-dollar plans as well.”
“The “step transaction” doctrine is alive and well. In the foot-race to beat potential tax law changes, families often miss the forest from the trees. The economic realities and entity formalities must be respected in the execution of a gift transaction….On November 10, 2021, the Tax Court rendered its decision in the case of Smaldino v. Commissioner, which involved a purported gift of LLC interests by Mr. Smaldino to his wife, followed by a purported gift of the same LLC interests, the very next day, from Mrs. Smaldino to a dynasty trust for the sole benefit of Mr. Smaldino’s children from a prior marriage. The Court found a series of ignored formalities, and that as a practical matter there was never a time when Mrs. Smaldino would have been able to effectively exercise any ownership rights with respect to the LLC interests “given” to her. The Court held that Mr. Smaldino never effectively transferred any LLC interest to Mrs. Smaldino, and consequently the dynasty trust received its entire LLC interest from Mr. Smaldino, creating a taxable event.”
There is an adage in the medical field that applies to planning for insurance trusts right now, namely: “First do no harm”. What is particularly difficult for estate and tax practitioners today is they are being asked to plan for previously proposed legislation that, while currently out of the legislative debate, might resurface and pass in the future. Given this situation, what can we do to position our clients so that we are helping them in the event that the now shelved legislation reenters the debate and is passed, while simultaneously not hurting them if the laws do not change?
This morning, President Biden delayed his trip to see the Pope to meet with Congressional Democrats about moving forward on the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill (BIF) and on the reconciliation bill (Build Back Better plan, or BBB). In concert with that meeting, the White House released two documents (below) explaining the current state of play on the reconciliation package.
We view this as an offer, not a conclusion. These documents are focused on the big picture items. They leave out many important details. There are other items not covered here that key Democrats have said must be addressed in a final deal (i.e. SALT).
Here are the things we are watching closely:
Grantor Trusts. We do not read their absence from this document as a guarantee that they are off the table.
Millionaires Surtax. To what definition of income is this being applied?
199A. While this document is silent on 199A adjustments, it does reference expansion of the Net Investment Income Tax. The House bill expanded that to cover active passthrough income, a small business tax increase.
Estate Tax Exemptions Expiration. Not addressed in the announced framework.
Again, this is a very fluid situation. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.
“Contained in the House Ways & Means version of the reconciliation package was a significant change that would materially impact the usage of grantor trusts for estate planning. Since its release, Finseca has been advocating to preserve the tax treatment of life insurance death benefits and to protect the clients who utilize your services to meet the anticipated liquidity needs at death inclusive of the taxes to be paid. Your Finseca team has had several constructive conversations with policymakers in Congress about correcting the unintended impact on life insurance. As always, nothing is final until the President signs the bill, and we do expect changes. We anticipate an updated draft of the bill in a few weeks when it moves to the House Rules Committee. Notably, the crafters of the provision have changed effective date for Section 1062 that would disregard ownership for any sales/transfers/swaps between the grantor and the trust and subject them to a tax realization event.”