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Tax Issues on the Family Home for Loved Ones

HouseNJ.com’s recent article, “Complex inheritance taxes on a home,” explains the valuation of a home based on its fair market value (FMV) on the date of death, when considering estate and inheritance taxes.

If you have a home valued at over $1 million, it may sell close to that amount. Let’s say that you’re single and are 80 years old. You live with your widowed sister. Your will instructs that your sister should have life ownership, when you pass and then it is left in trust for nieces and nephews. What would their tax bill be?

The home's value is generally determined through an appraisal that would establish the home's fair market value.

Fair market value, in these circumstances, is typically defined as "the amount at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy, and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts."

The transfer of a life estate to the sister, followed by placing the home in a trust for the nieces and nephews, would mean they’d have an inheritance tax liability in New Jersey. The sister is a Class "C" beneficiary under the state’s inheritance tax laws, and the nieces and nephews are deemed to be Class "D" beneficiaries.

Generally, Class "C" beneficiaries have a $25,000 exemption and anything over that exemption is taxed at 11% on the next $1.075 million. The rates then go higher as the amount increases. Transfers to Class "D" beneficiaries are taxed at 15% on the first $700,000 and 16% on amounts exceeding $700,000.

This is unlike the situation where a beneficiary receives a readily determinable amount at death. In such cases, the tax can be calculated easily by reference to the beneficiary classes and applicable tax rates. But in this scenario, the value of the interests the beneficiaries will ultimately receive is uncertain.

However, state law provides a solution for this situation: the estate and the New Jersey Division of Taxation may use the "Compromise Tax" procedures to agree upon an inheritance tax liability. The calculation of the compromise tax is based upon actuarial factors according to the life expectancy of the current beneficiary, his or her beneficiary class and the relative probability of assets passing to the remainder beneficiaries and their respective beneficiary classes. In most cases, the taxpayer offers a proposed compromise on the inheritance tax return for consideration by the Division, based on the taxpayer's assessment of the most probable outcome.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you understand and plan accordingly.

Reference: NJ.com (June 19, 2017) “Complex inheritance taxes on a home”

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Simple Estate Planning Tools

Old couple with computerWhen we look at the steps taken in our investing lives, the basics are simple. As working investors in the initial stages, the priority is accumulation and growth. Therefore, we participate in retirement plans such as IRA’s, 401-k plans, etc.

As Marco Eagle’s article, “Money Talks: Estate planning tools” explains, the next phase is the retirement stage, when the focus shifts from accumulation to preservation and maintenance of the nest egg.

Growth is a component of any retirement plan, but protecting your purchasing power during retirement is critical. You also want to generate a predictable stream of income during retirement, in order to avoid compromising your lifestyle.

The final stage of successful retirement planning is often overlooked: that’s the estate planning phase or the strategy of a succession plan to pass assets to your family. There are many estate planning tools that can be used to execute an estate plan. You can create a personal trust. Under this arrangement, your assets are transferred into a trust during your lifetime and then transferred by the trust at death. It’s important from both a tax standpoint and an allocation standpoint, regarding who receives what and how much. This is what your estate plan does for you and your family.

Work with an experienced estate and trusts attorney to establish your estate plan, so you can achieve your final objectives when passing assets to the next generation. Some individuals like the ability to exercise control with an effective plan to pass assets to their beneficiaries, without the need of trusts or probate.

There are many types of insured annuity strategies that will pass assets immediately to the beneficiaries, without the need of probate. Avoiding probate is frequently part of a strategy to make the assets available, immediately after the death certificate is issued.

Some see the foundation of their estate planning as the incorporation of life insurance. This lets the beneficiaries inherit assets, generally tax free. Avoiding a taxable event upon death is also appealing, based on both taxes as well as overall portfolio values. Talk to a professional about your situation.

Reference: Marco Eagle (June 11, 2017) “Money Talks: Estate planning tools”

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What… My Taxes are Going Down? What Gives?

Happy-old-coupleThere could be more reductions in the offing, as lawmakers in Minnesota recently raised the state's estate tax exemption to $2.1 million retroactive to January. That exemption will rise to $2.4 million next year. Similarly, Maryland is going to increase its $3 million exemption to $4 million in 2018. New Jersey's exemption of $675,000 per person increased to $2 million per person this past January.

In addition, Fox Business’s article, “Why More States Are Killing Death Taxes” reports that the Garden State will also totally eliminate its estate tax, making New Jersey one of about six others that have ended their estate taxes in the last ten years.

The tax-cutting trend stems from an intense competition between the states for affluent and wealthy taxpayers. Residents owe income taxes every year. However, there are those who are willing to move out-of-state to avoid death taxes. In addition, with the federal estate and gift tax exemption increasing to more than $5 million, states with death taxes really stick out.

There are two holdouts, Massachusetts and Oregon. These two are the only states with estate tax exemptions of $1 million or lower, compared to nine in 2009. The tax in both states will increase annually because neither adjusts for inflation. Some Massachusetts lawmakers are concerned about losing residents to other states because of its estate tax, a $400 million revenue generator last year. Massachusetts is looking at upping the exemption to half the federal level and maybe excluding the value of a residence.

It’s a different story in Oregon where efforts to raise the exemption have met with resistance in the legislature. The estate tax revenue of $200 million for the two-year cycle ending June 30 is 50% higher than forecast, which has been helped by strong housing and financial markets. Nevertheless, few people are expected to leave Oregon to avoid its estate tax.

In another six states, it’s the inheritance tax that is creating pressure on the government. An inheritance tax is payable by the person who inherits assets, not the estate of the person who died. Inheritance tax rates and exemptions often vary, according to the heir's relation to the decedent. For instance, in Nebraska, there’s no tax on assets left to a spouse, a top rate of 1% on assets passed to lineal relatives or siblings and a top rate of 18% on assets left to non-relatives.

There are two states, New Jersey and Maryland that have both an estate and an inheritance tax. They’ve both trimmed their estate tax, but neither state has modified its inheritance tax. On the bright side, Maryland has large exemptions to its inheritance tax.

Reference: Fox Business (June 16, 2017) “Why More States Are Killing Death Taxes”

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How Do I Collect as the Sole Beneficiary for a Family Member Who Lives Out-of-State?

Question markNJ.com’s recent article, “Inheriting money from out-of-state relative,” explains that with a power of attorney, you will be able to manage the family member's affairs during his lifetime, if he or she is unable to do so. However, a power of attorney stops at the death of the principal.

When considering the tax ramifications, there are two distinct types of taxes that may be imposed by a state where the person is a resident at the time of their death. An estate tax may be imposed on the estate of an individual before the property is transferred to the beneficiary. There is also the inheritance tax. This tax is imposed on certain individuals who inherit property from an estate. Whether a state estate tax or inheritance tax must be paid, is dependent on the laws of the state where the person was a resident at the time of death, not the state where the beneficiary lives.

The estate of a person who is a resident of New York and dies between April 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018 is subject to a New York estate tax, only if the value of the estate exceeds $5.25 million. On January 1, 2019, the New York estate tax exemption will equal the federal estate tax exemption. It is anticipated to be about $5.9 million.

In some states, the relationship between the testator and the heirs may make them subject to an inheritance tax.

If the relative, for example, owns real property in New Jersey, there’s an inheritance tax of 15% imposed by the state on the value of that real property. When a person inherits the estate assets, there would be a step-up in basis for any appreciated assets. This means that there shouldn’t be any capital gains tax on those assets, if they’re disposed of for the date of death values.

Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney to understand the consequences for you and your family member's estate.

Reference: NJ.com (June 6, 2017) “Inheriting money from out-of-state relative”

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Widows and Widowers Get Break with New Tax Ruling

Woman looking out windowForbes’ recent article, IRS Offers Estate Tax Relief To Widows And Widowers,” advises that some quick action may be needed to take advantage of the relief from the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount (DSUE).

DSUE comes from a simplification of the estate tax in 2010 and the two most important provisions of the estate tax for many “moderate” millionaires: (i) the unified credit, which protects $5.49 million from estate tax in 2017; and (ii) the unlimited marital deduction. The unlimited marital deduction allows any amount left to the surviving spouse to be free of estate tax, if chosen.

A big concern of basic estate planning in the past was to make sure that a couple did not waste one of their unified credits. The DSUE saves people from creating trusts to work around losing the unified credits.

The relief offered by Revenue Procedure 2017-34 is available for the estates of decedents who died after December 31, 2010, in instances where no estate tax return was required and none was filed.

The executor can take advantage of the relief by filing an estate tax return with the election and making a reference to the revenue procedure at the top of the first page of the return. It’s available until January 2, 2018. After that, the procedure is available up to two years after the date of death.

This issue should be considered by moderate millionaires (those with a few million dollars), if they’re surviving spouses of people who died after 2010, where no estate tax return was filed. Look at the administrative headache of accomplishing the filing versus the chance that you might die with a net worth over the exclusion amount.  It is important to remember: it’s not your current net worth, but rather what your date of death net worth might be.

Speak with an estate planning attorney, if you believe that this is something you should do. Avoid the estate tax preparation rush in December.

Reference: Forbes (June 12, 2017) “IRS Offers Estate Tax Relief To Widows And Widowers”

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