Navigating the Tax Laws to Maximize | Your Beneficiary’s Inheritance | Comprehensive Estate Planning
When most individuals are establishing an estate plan, they generally only think about the tax consequences to themselves. But a truly comprehensive estate plan is one that takes planning a step further and considers the tax consequences the beneficiaries of the estate may face. When creating an estate plan, having a clear understanding of, and properly planning for these taxes will help ensure your beneficiaries get the largest inheritance possible.
When one inherits money as a beneficiary of an estate, there are three different taxes that oftentimes need to be understood and accounted for:
Let’s take a look at these individually:
Estate and Gift Tax
• The 2021 federal estate tax exemption (commonly known as the unified tax credit) amount is $11,700,000 per individual. • Only the deceased taxpayer is subject to the estate tax when the estate value is greater than the unused exemption. • Even if the decedent did not have a taxable estate, the estate of the decedent survived by a spouse should file Form 706, Estate Tax Return, to pass any remaining/unused unified tax credit exemption to the surviving spouse. • When someone dies, their assets become property of their estate. Any income those assets generate is also part of the estate, and may trigger a requirement to file Form 1041, Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts. • An inheritance is not considered taxable income to the beneficiary. • Currently, in addition to estate taxes assessed at the Federal level, 12 states and the District of Columbia also collect an estate tax. California does not currently have an estate tax.
• Only six states currently collect this tax (Iowa, Kentucky,Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). • Property passing to a surviving spouse is exempt from inheritance taxes in all six of these states.
• Inherited retirement account distributions are subject to ordinary income taxes. • If you sell or dispose of inherited property that is a capital asset, you will be subject to either a long-term capital gain or loss, regardless of how long you, as the beneficiary, have held the asset.
• Make annual cash gifts to your children, grandchildren, other family members, and even friends. You can also contribute cash to a 529 plan to help pay for future school to any individual you would like. The receipt of cash is non-taxable to the recipient, and, if the gift is below the $15,000 annual exclusion amount, you will not eat into your above-mentioned $11,700,000 lifetime estate and gift tax exemption amount.
Lowering the Value of Your Estate – Philanthropy
• If you are charitably inclined, you can make gifts of any size at any time while alive directly to charities or to a Donor Advised Fund. The donation of appreciated securities provides not only an immediate deduction of the fair market value of the stock at the time of contribution, but also avoids capital gains tax upon sale. • Charitable contributions due to the death of the taxpayer result in a dollar for dollar reduction of the taxable estate. • Additional vehicles available include Charitable Remainder Trusts or Charitable Lead Trusts.
• If you are considering buying life insurance to either pay for the estate tax liability or provide more for your beneficiaries, set up a life insurance trust and have it purchase the policy so the death benefit isn’t included in your taxable estate.
Step-Up in Cost Basis – Take Advantage!
If you have appreciated stock or property and gift it to someone, the recipient gets the carried over basis and will have to pay capital gains when he or she sells the asset. Instead of gifting before your death, have them inherit it after your passing so they get a “step up” in basis and recognize a smaller gain on future disposition.
The Future of Estate Taxes Under the Biden Administration
• During his campaign, President Biden discussed the possibility of decreasing an individual’s federal estate tax exemption amount either to $5 million per individual (and $10 million for a married couple) or to the pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act amount of$3.5 million per individual (and $7 million for a married couple). This decrease in lifetime exemption could be paired with an increased top tax rate of 45 percent. • President Biden also proposed eliminating stepped-up basis on death and possibly taxing unrealized capital gains at death at the proposed increased capital gains tax rates.
How Can We Help?
At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a legal fiduciary to you, and embrace the professional obligation we have to work 100% in your best interests. If you would like to learn more about Towerpoint Wealth and how we can help you achieve your financial goals, we encourage you to call (916-405-9166) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to open an objective dialogue.
Most individuals who are philanthropically inclined usually just take the path of least resistance and write a check directly to a charity. Of course, this is a straightforward approach and can qualify for an income tax deduction, but when being charitable, there are many different (and often economically more advantageous) options and strategies available to you. Indeed, with strategic and thoughtful planning, a taxpayer may be able to optimize their gifting strategy, meeting multiple objectives by maximizing the economic benefits 1.) to themselves, 2.) to their favorite charities, and even 3.) to their loved ones.
Are you optimizing your philanthropy and gifting strategy? Below you will find a myriad of different charitable strategies we regularly employ for Towerpoint Wealth clients, designed to help you better understand your options.
Cash/Direct to Charity
A cash gift is the simplest and (by far) most popular form of charitable giving.
The income tax deduction for a cash gift is generally equal to the amount of cash donated less the value of any goods or services received in return. And while the benefit of a cash donation is its simplicity, as you will see below, it is not always optimal from a tax and gifting perspective.
A Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) is a charitable fund, a 501(c)(3) entity in and of itself, that allows an individual to donate cash or appreciated securities, such as individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Donating appreciated securities can be a more tax advantageous way to fund a DAF, as donating an investment that has gone up in value generally provides the exact same tax deduction as donating cash, while at the same time provides the extra benefit of eliminating the capital gains tax that a taxpayer would normally pay upon selling the security.
How does it work? The donor makes an irrevocable gift of cash or appreciated securities to a DAF. The donor is then able to decide, on their own timeline, when to grant funds out of the DAF and directly to a charity or charities of their choice. If the contribution is appreciated securities, the DAF is allowed to sell these positions tax-free. The DAF will typically then, at the donor’s discretion, invest the funds in a manner consistent with the donor’s charitable goals and objectives. Once the donor is ready to make a grant from the DAF, he or she simply informs and authorizes the DAF custodian (usually via the custodian’s online platform) to send a check directly to the charity on the donor’s behalf.
Typically, the funding and operational costs of DAFs are low, and our clients also love that they provide a year-end summary report, eliminating the hassle and stress of tracking each contribution/grant out of the DAF individually.
At Towerpoint Wealth, we also evaluate “frontloading” a DAF with several years’ worth of potential charitable contributions, allowing a taxpayer to “hurdle” the standard deduction and thus, not only eliminate the future capital gains tax of the donated funds, but also provide them with at least a partial tax deduction for their charitable contributions in a particular tax year.
A private foundation may be structured either as a corporation managed by a board of directors, or as a trust managed by trustees. Unlike a public charity, the funding for a private foundation typically comes from a single individual, family, or corporation.
The primary benefit of a private foundation is the enhanced control that it provides, as it is able to formulate its own customized charitable gifting approach and platform (and continue to gift directly to other charities as well). A donation to a private foundation is an irrevocable charitable gift, and qualifies for a potential income tax deduction that, for most individuals, will be the exact same as gifting directly to another 501(c)(3) charity.
Importantly, private foundations have administrative and tax reporting requirements that may be costly, and speaking further with a financial advisor and tax professional regarding the benefits and drawbacks of establishing one is recommended.
IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution
Individuals who are over the age of 72 are subject to annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their pre-tax IRA(s). These distributions are included on an individual’s tax return as taxable income and are subject to ordinary income tax.
As an alternative to taking a “normal” RMD, an individual can instead execute a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), which allows them to both satisfy their RMD and their charitable intention at the same time.
How does a QCD work? Instead of a “normal” RMD, which usually is deposited into an individual’s checking, savings, or brokerage account, a QCD is paid directly from the IRA to a qualified charity. This distribution not only offsets – or, depending on the amount, fully satisfies – an individual’s RMD, but it is also excluded from taxable income.
And unlike other gifting strategies, a QCD’s net effect as an “above the line” dollar-for-dollar tax deduction can offer additional economic benefits when compared to a “typical” itemized charitable tax deduction.
Charitable Remainder Trust
A charitable remainder trust (CRT) allows a donor to make a future charitable gift, while at the same time, receive an income stream during their lifetime for their own spending goals and needs. There are two types of CRTs: Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs) and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTs). The two main differences are how the annual distribution to the income beneficiary(ies) is calculated and how often assets can be contributed to the trusts.
When the donor establishes and contributes to a CRT, they are entitled to a current income tax deduction that is equal to the future expected value of the trust assets that will ultimately pass to the charitable beneficiary(ies). The deduction calculation is based on a number of different factors, such as the annual income stream payout set by the CRT, the age(s) of the income beneficiary(ies), the trust’s specified term of years, and the published IRS monthly interest rate.
At either 1.) the donor’s death, 2.) the death of the beneficiary, or 3.) the completion of the trust’s term, the trustee will distribute the balance of the trust assets directly to the chosen charity(ies).
The primary benefit of a CRT is that an individual may receive a substantial tax deduction in the year they open and fund the CRT, while at the same time, continue to receive income for themselves (or other income beneficiaries) during their lifetime. If the CRT is funded with cash, the donor can claim a deduction of up to 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI); if appreciated assets are used to fund the trust, up to 30% of their AGI may be deducted. In addition, if the trustee decides to sell contributed appreciated securities, he or she can do so tax-free.
Opening, funding, and administrating a CRT is complicated and there are important ongoing tax filing obligations. As such, it is highly recommended to work with a trusted financial advisor and tax professional to ensure that a CRT is the right choice. Further, the tax deduction calculation may be audited, so it is important to hire a qualified professional to appraise this value.
Charitable Lead Trust
In the simplest sense, a charitable lead trust (CLT) is the reverse of a CRT. The income generated by the contributed assets is distributed to the chosen charity, and the beneficiaries receive the remainder interest. Like a CRT, a CLT can be an annuity trust (CLAT) or a unitrust (CLUT), but different distribution rules apply.
There are two main types of CLTs: a grantor CLT and a non-grantor CLT. A grantor CLT, like a CRT, is designed to give the donor an upfront charitable income tax deduction. However, to receive the charitable deduction, the donor must be willing to be taxed on all trust income. Since the gift is “for the use of” a charity instead of “to” a charity, cash contributions to a grantor CLT are subject to reduced deduction limits of 30% of AGI, and appreciated asset contributions are subject to deduction limits of 20% of AGI. For non-grantor CLTs, the grantor does not receive a charitable income tax deduction, nor are they taxed on the income of the trust. Instead, the trust pays tax on the income, and the trust claims a charitable deduction for the amounts it pays to the charity. It is very important to note that since they are not tax-exempt, neither type of CLT offers the ability to avoid or defer tax on the sale of appreciated assets like a CRT does.
A CLT may be a better option than a CRT if an individual has no need for current income and wants to ensure that, upon their death, their loved ones receive an inheritance.
A charitable lead trust is often structured to provide gift-tax benefits, not necessarily a current income tax deduction. A donor is able to gift more to family members with a reduced gift-tax effect because the gift’s present value is discounted by the calculated income to be paid to the charity(ies). The tax deduction the individual receives is based on the annual amount provided to the charity.
A PIF is comprised of assets from many different donors, pooled and invested together. Each donor is assigned units in the fund that reflect his or her share of the fund’s total assets. Each year, the donors are paid their proportionate share of the net income earned by the fund – the distribution amount depends on the fund’s performance and, importantly, is taxable income to the beneficiary (which is typically the donor but may also be a family member, friend, etc.). At the death of each income beneficiary, the charity receives an amount equal to that donor’s share in the fund.
PIF contributions provide a tax deduction to the donor upon contribution and, like the other charitable gifting vehicles described previously, affords the donor the ability to avoid paying any capital gains taxes on the contributed appreciated securities.
A primary drawback of a PIF is that the donor has no control over how the assets are invested, as the investment of the fund is directed by a professional manager. As such, it is important that individuals speak with a financial advisor to ensure that a PIF is thoughtfully incorporated into their overall investment allocation and strategy, as well as philanthropic and charitable giving plan.
How can we help?
At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a legal fiduciary to you, and embrace the professional obligation we have to work 100% in your best interests. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving strategies, we encourage you to contact us to open an objective dialogue.
 Appreciated securities may be donated directly to certain charities as well. However, doing so is typically an administrative hassle for both the individual and the receiving organization.
 Donations to a private foundation are tax deductible up to 30% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash, and up to 20% of AGI for appreciated securities, with a five-year carry forward
 Up to an annual maximum of $100,000, per taxpayer.
 A CRAT pays a fixed percentage (at least 5%) of the trust’s initial value every year until the trust terminates. The donor cannot make additional contributions to a CRAT after the initial contribution. A CRUT, by contrast, pays a fixed percentage (at least 5%) of the trust’s value as determined annually. A donor can make additional contributions to a CRUT.
The battle against coronavirus has unquestionably been a difficult, painful, arduous, and seemingly constant one over the past 12 months, with the underlying question constantly on everyone’s mind: “When will we reopen and get back to normal?” And while we are by no means at the finish line yet, at Towerpoint Wealth we believe we are much closer to the end of the pandemic than we are to the beginning of it.
Why the hope? We will let the visuals support a number of key reasons for our optimism:
Huge declines in COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations
Widespread vaccine distribution
Extreme fiscal stimulus
Measured re-opening of the economy
Pending herd immunity
At Towerpoint Wealth, we believe it is also time to look forward, without letting our guard down, with expanding optimism and appreciation for what the future holds. Understanding we will always remain pragmatic, and avoid cockeyed optimism, we do believe that the marathon is almost at its conclusion.
It used to be (and still can be) as simple as writing a check and mailing it off to your favorite charity. However, simply giving cash may not be the best, nor the most beneficial or impactful, way to be philanthropic. Fortunately, today’s donors have a myriad of gifting strategies that can increase the economic benefits of their gifts, both for the charity, as well as for you.
As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, email@example.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.
For many voters, considering and sorting through all of the complicated issues can sometimes be a confusing and overwhelming responsibility:
As is typically the case, income taxes rank highly on the list of topics important to voters. According to a mid-September Gallup poll, 61% of voters said that the presidential candidates’ position on income taxes was either an extremely important or very important influence on who they vote for.
Understanding the upcoming election will be pivotal when it comes to tax policy, as well as how divergent the two candidates are regarding virtually every single issue, the dichotomy between Trump and Biden in tax policy and philosophy should come as no surprise. Both candidates have a plan, each with far-reaching consequences, for the following:
Individual tax rates
Capital gains and dividends
Individual tax credits and deductions
Education tax credits
Hungry for more information?
Click HERE for a concise “low down” on each candidate’s position on the major tax issues, courtesy of Grant Thornton.
Click HERE For a fresh (filmed just this morning) take from Michael Zezas, Head of U.S. Public Policy Research at Morgan Stanley, on what Biden and Trump’s tax policy proposals mean for investors, the markets, and the election.
What seems to be clear is that who wins in November could very well spell the difference between cementing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as a permanentshift in U.S. tax policy, or instead, reversing major portions of this three-year-old legislation in favor of more progressive tax policies.
Either way, let’s not forget that there almost assuredly will be a substantial difference between what is promised on the campaign trail and what actually passes into law!
What’s Happening at TPW?
Lori and Raquel. On Tuesday. Together. With Bob Ross (on the right)! That’s all.
Keeping with the theme of today’s newsletter, we at Towerpoint Wealth believe our energy is best spent helping our clients plan for things we have some control over, while being aware of, but not reactionary to, things we do not. And while paying taxes is as exacting and constant today as it was the day Benjamin Franklin penned his famous Death and Taxes quote in 1789, that doesn’t mean it can’t be planned around and minimized.
We are fortunate to have two team members who are licensed CPAs here at TPW, our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford, and our new Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan. Fortunately for us (and our clients!), both Steve and Matt are extremely well-versed and experienced in helping TPW clients reduce the income tax “drag” on their net worth and investments, specifically monitoring and focusing on the following areas:
Tax efficient investing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax legislation updates and changes
Asset/investment account drawdown
Account withdrawal tax optimization
Charitable trust planning
Charitable giving planning and analysis
Income tax credit and deduction analysis
Direct coordination and planning with your CPA/tax advisor
Tax return analysis
Graph of the Week
Will it be a landslide, or will it be close? Will it be contested, or will it go smoothly? Reply to this email and let us know what you think!
As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.