Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

With this week’s blog we take a break from educating to take a moment to thank all of our readers for taking the time from their busy schedules to read what we have to offer.

From Alan, Matt and everyone at Finkel Whitefield Selik, have a Happy Thanksgiving and, for our Jewish friends, a Happy Hanukkah.

Please be safe as you travel and prepare for your holiday celebrations, and when in doubt remember 1-800-BUTTERBALL is there to assist you

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IRA Trusts as a Tool for Protecting Beneficiaries from Themselves

We all have clients who recognize their children's limitations and want to protect those children against their own shortcomings. These shortcomings may take the form of a drug or alcohol dependency, a gambling problem, or a spending problem. I once counseled a client who had two children who spent more than they made, often requiring my client to bail them out of financial trouble, as to how she could protect her children against themselves after she passed away. In addition, she wanted a portion of her estate held for the benefit of her grandson.
While this client had a number of assets, she had a particularly large IRA account. Because of her goals and the existence of this IRA account, I suggested the client set up an "IRA Trust".  An IRA Trust is a stand-alone trust, separate from a Living Trust, which acts as the beneficiary of IRAs or other retirement benefits. The provisions of an IRA Trust satisfy all of the regulations related to the distribution of IRAs and retirement benefits, allowing the beneficiaries to take advantage of stretching distributions of their inherited benefits over their lifetime, delaying taxation. Except for the required minimum distributions (RMDs), the IRA assets can continue to grow tax-deferred and protect beneficiaries against their own bad habits of misspending and mismanagement of money.
The IRA beneficiary designation specified that at the client’s death three separate sub-trusts would each be the beneficiary of one-third (1/3) of the IRA. This specific allocation allowed the Trustee to use each beneficiary's separate life expectancy to calculate the required minimum distributions, rather than the life expectancy of the oldest beneficiary of the trust. There was eight years difference in the daughters' ages, which allowed the younger daughter to take a smaller required distribution every year. This strategy was particularly beneficial to the grandson, who was only 13 at the time his grandmother passed away. This allowed the trustee to calculate his required distributions using 70 additional years of life expectancy, resulting in very small taxable distributions, thereby deferring tax.
We also designed the IRA Trust with different sub-trust provisions for each beneficiary. One daughter only would receive the greater of income earned by her sub-trust or the required minimum distribution. This restriction was always in force and that daughter could not accelerate any distributions. The second daughter, who was somewhat more responsible with her finances, also received the greater of income earned by her sub-trust or the required minimum distribution, but after three years was entitled to take up to 10% of the value of her sub-trust each year if she chose to request it. Finally, the share for the grandson was set up to provide for income and principal as needed, but if not used, remained in the trust for later use, such as education, purchasing a home, or starting a business.
Our client did express one final concern that her daughters would be unhappy with the limitations placed on them, but was comforted by the fact that by the time the children were aware of the restrictions she would not be in a position of having to listen to their complaints.
 Our client was somewhat less restrictive with distributions to her daughters from her Living Trust because she knew that even if the daughters spent those assets quickly, the terms of the IRA Trust still protected her daughters and grandson from completely running out of assets. The client was also able to make charitable distributions from her Living Trust without worrying that charitable beneficiaries would negate the "stretch out" of IRA distributions over the other beneficiaries' lifetime.
Clients are often reluctant to place restrictions on their children even if it is for their own good. It is often the difficult obligation of advisors to begin the discussion about ways to protect the beneficiaries from their own shortcomings and let the client eventually find comfort with specific strategies for protecting them. As with all estate planning strategies, careful consideration should be given not only to the relevant tax provisions, but also to understanding a client's true desires. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Year End Charitable Gifting Strategies

As we discussed last week, many of our clients use this time of year to make annual gifts to family members. A number of those clients also plan their charitable gifting for the end of the year to take advantage of the deduction that such gifts provide against income tax liability. Some of our clients make direct cash gifts to their chosen charities, while others satisfy their charitable inclinations with gifts of property, such as artwork, real estate, or stock. These gifts allow them to deduct the charitable contributions, up to 50%, 30%, or 20% of their adjusted gross income, depending on the type of property contributed and the type of donee. Depending on the client’s financial situation, more advanced gifting techniques can provide greater benefit to both the client and the charity.
One of our clients, who will likely have some estate tax liability, uses Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT) to maximize the value of her charitable gifts. The CRT stipulates that the client receives an annual payout of a percentage of the value of the trust during her lifetime, with charities receiving the remainder of the trust assets at her death. In addition to satisfying her charitable intentions over the long-term, she reduces her potential estate tax liability, obtains an income stream for her lifetime, and is eligible for an income tax deduction equal to the present value of the remainder interest, determined by using IRS tables. In her case, at age 70, a $1,000,000 transfer to a CRT with a 6% annual payout provided her with $60,000 of annual income for life, and give her a $466,370 charitable deduction.
Another client, who does not need additional current income, chose to take the opposite path and fund a Charitable LeadTrust (CLT). A CLT provides charities with an annual income stream for a period of time, with the remainder interest going to other beneficiaries. In this case, the client just sold a business, had a significant gain, and wanted a tax deduction in the year of sale. We set up the CLT to provide a 6% payout to charities for twenty years. At the end of twenty years, the remaining balance of the trust will be held for the benefit of his three children. This allowed our client to take an immediate charitable deduction of $2,124,000. In order to take the deduction in the year the CLT is funded, the taxpayer must report the income earned by the trust over the next 20 years, which our client was comfortable with because his income in future years would be much less than the current year. As with the CRT and additional benefit of a properly structured CLT is a reduction in the value of the client’s future estate tax liability.
Not all techniques require a long-term trust to facilitate gifting. One of our clients, knowing he was selling his business, sought advice regarding the best way to donate a portion of the proceeds to his favorite charities. To maximize funds received by the charities, we recommended that he donate a portion of the stock to a charitable trust set up for those charities. The trust then joined in the sale, received a portion of the proceeds tax-free, and distributed those proceeds to the charities. By contributing the stock first to the charitable trust and then having the charitable trust join in the sale, the charitable trust received the full amount of the proceeds without liability for income taxes. If the client had sold the stock first, he would have been liable for capital gains tax and there would have been fewer dollars available for the charitable contribution.
Finally, for those clients receiving distributions from an IRA, 2013 provides a unique opportunity. The tax rules provide that if a donor is at least 70 1/2 years of age, he or she can have the IRA distribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity and treat it as excludable from income. One of our clients, with a large IRA but little other available assets, has been using direct distributions from an IRA to charities for the last few years. This technique allows her to satisfy her chartable inclinations and reduce her own potential income tax liability. Unfortunately, due to a change in the law, 2013 is the last year this option is available.
There are a number of other creative ways to fund a client's charitable desires, provide them with income tax deductions, and limit liability for future estate taxes, but these techniques require proper planning. If any of your clients are interested in charitable gifting options for this year, they should consult with their advisors soon in order to provide sufficient time to implement strategies that maximize their charitable contributions.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making the Most out of Year End Gifts to Family

This time of year, many of our clients begin considering making gifts to family members. Some of our clients will use the annual gift-tax exclusion ($14,000 in 2013), to make family gifts tax-free. Others, who desire to make larger gifts to family members, are willing to use of a portion of their lifetime exclusion amount (totaling $5,250,000 in 2013).
Many of our clients attempt to keep things simple by giving cash. "Cash makes no enemies" as they say, but it still can remove a significant amount of assets from a client's estate in the event of future estate tax liability. For example, a couple I represent, who will have a taxable estate, give $14,000 each to a total of 33 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as to spouses of some of those beneficiaries. Each year they give away more than $900,000, which will save over $360,000 in federal estate tax liability at their death. I suggested the clients give interests in LLCs holding real estate rather cash because it would have allowed them to give away more than $1,100,000 under their current gifting scheme. Unfortunately, many of their beneficiaries have gotten used to living outside of their means and need these cash gifts to help balance out their annual expenses.
As I mentioned above, clients can get even greater advantage against future tax liability by using the annual exclusion gifts to give highly appreciating property rather than cash. The current value of the gift and any future appreciation escapes taxation. Giving children a portion of real estate or minority interests in closely held companies are two common methods of taking advantage of this technique. In addition, it is possible to discount gifts or a minority interest for gift tax purposes because of lack of marketability and lack of control. For example, using a 20% discount allows clients to treat a gift of minority interest valued $18,000 as a gift valued at $14,000. Depending upon the asset the clients choose to transfer, sometime greater discounts are possible.
Others of my clients have taken advantage of the possibility of discounts by giving awayclosely held stock or minority interests in LLCs, which may hold real estate or other invested assets. Can clients not only leverage the annual exclusion gifts, but also can actually leverage the lifetime estate tax and gift exclusion. If there is a desire, a client can make gifts above the annual exclusion amount by using some or all of their lifetime exclusion. If only a 20% valuation discount is available, the current $5,250,000 lifetime exclusion could support gifts of over $6,500,000, not including future appreciation. One client in particular gave away a 99% nonvoting interest in an LLC holding real estate that is leased by his other businesses. Not only were we able to use discounts because the interest was nonvoting, but his retained 1% voting interest allows him to control the entity. This particular client did not need the income from the leases so we structured the LLC to distribute that income to the children. Another client used a similar strategy and distributed income to his grandchildren for their education expenses.
Even if the clients do not have a taxable estate, making gifts to children may be a good idea because it allows them to see if their children will use or invest the money wisely. If the children make mistakes with small amounts, they can modify their estate planning documents to provide guidance to children after their deaths so assets are not wasted. In addition, it can allow them to enjoy seeing their children do things and have things while they are still alive.
Any time during the year is a good time to make gifts to help facilitate planning, but as the days grow short and the year nears an end, there is a finite amount of time for clients to take advantage of gifting opportunities using the annual exclusion gifts or lifetime exclusion gifts. It is important for us as planners to help clients understand the opportunities and facilitate good planning. We need to remind them that if an annual exclusion gift is not made in any particular year, it lapses and cannot be carried over to a following year.
This time of year is also an excellent time for clients to consider charitable gifts, and next week we will discuss some of the planning opportunities for charitable donations.