Q&A: Maximize Your Legacy for Your Grandchildren

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You’re a financially successful grandparent who wants to leave a big legacy for your grandchildren. You would like to maximize the legacy you leave them while minimizing taxes. Here are some questions you’ll need to consider:

Q. Will the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) limit what I can give to my children?

The IRS imposes a transfer tax at each family generation:

  • If an asset passes from a parent to a child, and then from the child to a grandchild, estate tax is imposed in both the parent’s and the child’s estates.
  • If a parent passes the asset to the grandchild to try to bypass the child’s estate and avoid estate tax,  it may be subject to another transfer tax, the generation-skipping transfer tax.
  • This tax is particularly onerous because it is imposed in addition to the estate tax incurred in the parent’s estate and is assessed at a flat 45% rate.

As a result, when the GSTT applies, it may result in more than 75% of the assets passing to the grandchild being consumed in estate taxes and generation-skipping taxes.

Q. At what amount does the tax kick in?

The IRS provides each individual with a “GST exemption” of $5.25 million. In other words, each individual may engage in generation-skipping transfers of up to that amount without subjecting those assets to the GSTT.

Q. Can I leave even more without losing much to taxes?

Many individuals who might otherwise leave their entire estates to their children allocate their generation-skipping exemption – currently $5.25 million – to generation skipping trusts for the benefit of their children and grandchildren.

Q. Would a trust help if I don’t have that many assets?

The trust advantages go beyond tax savings. Using the generation-skipping tax exemption offers two important advantages:

  • The trust will escape all transfer taxes when the children die and will pass to the grandchildren tax-free.
  • The trust may be protected from the claims of creditors and, to some degree ex-spouses. (some states protect inheritance in divorce proceedings.)
  • Gift, estate and generation skipping tax laws are constantly changing. The exemption amount has been as low as $1 million and the tax, as high as 55%.

Historical Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Exemptions and Rates

Year GST Exemption GST Tax Rate
1997 $1,000,000 55%
1998 $1,000,000 55%
1999 $1,010,000 55%
2000 $1,030,000 55%
2001 $1,060,000 55%
2002 $1,100,000 50%
2003 $1,120,000 49%
2004 $1,500,000 48%
2005 $1,500,000 47%
2006 $2,000,000 46%
2007 $2,000,000 45%
2008 $2,000,000 45%
2009 $3,500,000 45%
2010 No generation skipping transfer tax N/A
2011 $5,000,000 35%
2012 $5,120,000 35%
2013 $5,250,000 40%

In view of the uncertainty in tax laws and of the erratic nature of lawmakers in the United States, any grandparent with assets totaling more than $1 million should consider funding an irrevocable dynasty trust to take advantage of the current $5.25 million gift and GST tax exemptions. Even individuals with $1 million or less should consider placing high-growth assets in a dynasty trust, where they can grow insulated against creditors and against future estate taxes.

Q. How Do I Set Up a GSTT Trust?

1. Establish a trust. Appoint a trustee

2. Fund it up to the GSTT exemption.

3. Leverage the trust assets through life insurance.

The example below provides a brief summary of what a Dynasty trust can do for you. Please note that states may limit the term of the trust:

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Leverage Your Legacy

If you and your spouse are healthy and qualify for life insurance, the trustee can also purchase life insurance on you. The advantages:

  • The death proceeds go to your children and grandchildren, exactly according to your wishes.
  • The proceeds are generally received by the trust both income and estate tax free.
  • You can provide for multiple generations – including both children and grandchildren.

Speak With a Planner

Estate and GST taxes can be avoided using other useful techniques. For example, interests in a family limited partnership (FLP) or family limited liability company (FLLC) can be transferred to succeeding generations by simply gifting the assets to family members. Valuation discounting of family business interests can lower exposure to gift taxes. Under circumstances, a personal residence can be efficiently transferred using a qualified personal residence trust (QPRT). These other techniques, however, do not offer the asset protection and long-term wealth preservation and management possible with an irrevocable dynasty trust.

Takeaways

  • The uncertainty of tax laws means that any grandparent with assets over $1 million should consider funding an irrevocable dynasty trust to take advantage of the current $5.2 million gift and GST tax exemptions.
  • Grandparents with $1 million or less should consider placing high-growth assets in a dynasty trust, where they can grow insulated against creditors and against future estate taxes.
  • If you are healthy enough to qualify for life insurance, it can greatly multiply the amount that you leave to future generations.

Note: 2013 Changes to Estate Tax, Gift Tax, and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Laws

Under ATRA, the federal estate tax exemption has been indexed for inflation and  increased from $5.12 million in 2012 to $5.25 million in 2013, but the estate tax rate for estates valued over this amount has increased from 35% in 2012 to 40% in 2013. In addition, the lifetime gift tax exemption has also been indexed for inflation and increased from $5.12 million in 2012 to $5.25 million in 2013, and the maximum gift tax rate has increased from 35% in 2012 to 40% in 2013. The generation skipping transfer tax exemption has also been indexed for inflation and  increased from $5.12 million in 2012 to $5.25 million in 2013, and the maximum generation skipping transfer tax rate has increased from 35% in 2012 to 40% in 2013.

Warning & Disclaimer: This is not legal advice.

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