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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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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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Check on Your Beneficiaries…Today!

Fortune cookie inheritanceWhen you pass away, what you leave to your loved ones is important, but so too is how you leave those assets. Making certain that you leave the right assets to the right beneficiaries, is a critical element of effective estate planning.

Forbes’ recent article, “Pass On Your Assets Wisely: How To Choose The Right Beneficiaries,” examines several common asset types and considerations to be taken when naming beneficiaries.

Life insurance. These proceeds can be paid to the beneficiaries quickly. After proof of death is established, the funds are paid. Think about heirs who may need ready access to funds after you pass. That’s usually not a minor child. However, if you do name a child, you must designate a guardian or place the proceeds in trust. Otherwise, the state may take control and assign a stranger to manage the money on your child’s behalf.

Assets in a Will. When you pass away, your will is going to be probated, and the assets can’t be distributed until the probate process is complete. Because of this, be sure the beneficiary of any property or assets specified in the will is in a position to wait. You can also create a revocable living trust to hold those assets, so a trustee can distribute assets directly to beneficiaries without waiting to go through probate.

Retirement plans. When you select the beneficiaries for retirement plans, remember that it can result in tax implications. The younger the recipient, the longer their life expectancy, and the more time they will have to withdraw funds from the plans. That means the account can continue to grow tax-deferred. You can also name a trust as the beneficiary of a retirement plan, and the assets in the trust will be protected from creditors. A retirement plan inherited outside of a trust may not enjoy this protection. In addition, if a beneficiary is young, the trustee can make distributions under conditions that you state when you create the trust.

Last, be certain the beneficiaries named in your retirement and other financial accounts are consistent with your estate plan. A beneficiary designation of your 401(k) plan supersedes anything in your will.

Reference: Forbes (May 30, 2017) “Pass On Your Assets Wisely: How To Choose The Right Beneficiaries”

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Administrator Must File for Portability for Surviving Spouse, Court Says

People reviewing documentsThe administrator of a decedent's estate in Oklahoma appealed an order from the trial court forcing the administrator to file a federal estate tax return for the estate and elect portability of the Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion Amount (DSUE) under the federal gift and estate tax laws. The surviving spouse asked for the order and wanted the benefits from the portability election.

In “In the matter of Estate of Vose,” 390 P.3d 238 (Okla. 2017), reported in Justia, the administrator argued that the district court erred on several grounds. One of the decedent’s children by a prior marriage refused to make the required election for transfer, even though the surviving spouse agreed to pay the cost required to prepare the required federal estate tax return.

Since 2010, a spouse has been permitted to transfer, at death, his or her unused gift and estate tax exemption to the surviving spouse. Prior to that date, each spouse had his or her own gift and estate tax exemption, but any portion of that exemption that remained unused by the spouse at death couldn’t be transferred to the surviving spouse.

The Court saw no merit in the personal representative’s argument that the surviving spouse didn’t have standing. The Court said the right to portability of the DSUE was a beneficial interest in the estate for the surviving spouse, regardless of the surviving spouse’s rights as an heir. As a result, the right to portability was an interest that qualified the surviving spouse to bring the lawsuit.

The estate’s administrator also claimed that the couple’s premarital agreement was a waiver by the surviving spouse of any rights to the estate making a portability election. However, the State Supreme Court said the right to portability became law in 2010, which was years after the premarital agreement was signed in 2006. Although the Court found that the couple did agree to a broad waiver of marital rights under the existing law when the premarital agreement was signed, the agreement didn’t speak to the issue of portability, because it wasn’t in the tax code at that point in time.

The Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision that the personal representative’s fiduciary obligations to protect estate assets applied and required him to preserve and transfer the decedent’s unused federal estate tax exemption to the surviving spouse.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected these arguments and said that “[a]n administrator of an estate occupies a fiduciary relationship toward all parties having an interest in the estate.”

Accordingly, 26 U.S.C.A. § 2010 requires the administrator to make the election to allow portability of the DSUE, and the only person with an interest in and ability to use the DSUE (if it exists) is the surviving spouse. If the election isn’t made through the timely filing of an estate tax return, it’s lost.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court found no reversible error by the trial judge and affirmed.

Reference: Justia (January 17, 2017) “In the matter of Estate of Vose”

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