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At Fleming Financial Services, Inc., our role is to assist our clients in defining and realizing their financial objectives and goals. We work with our clients to implement personalized plans designed for their unique situations. Our areas of concentration are: Retirement planning, Estate and Wealth Transfer strategies, and Business Continuation planning. We emphasize the importance of conducting our business with integrity and professionalism. As a member of PartnersFinancial, an independent national financial services company, we are able to provide access to sophisticated resources for the benefit of our clients. Some of the professionals with our firm are currently registered to conduct business through NFP Securities, Inc. With those additional resources in place, we help facilitate the complex corporate and personal financial decisions our clients must make.

The New Estate Tax Rules and Your Estate Plan-Part 2

Thomas Joseph Thomas Joseph , 10/2/2014
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Fleming Financial Services, PA, Esate PlanningA/B trust plans with formula clauses If you currently have an A/B trust plan, it may no longer carry out your intended wishes because of the increased exemption amount. Many of these plans use a formula clause that transfers to the credit shelter trust an amount equal to the most that can pass free from estate tax, with the remainder passing to the marital trust for the benefit of the spouse. For example, say a spouse died in 2003 with an estate worth $5,340,000 and an estate tax exemption of $1 million. The full exemption amount, or $1 million, would have been transferred to the credit shelter trust and $4,340,000 would have passed to the marital trust. Under the same facts in 2014, since the exemption has increased, the entire $5,340,000 estate will transfer to the credit shelter trust, to which the surviving spouse may have little or no access.  Review your estate plan carefully with an estate planning professional to be sure your intentions will be carried out under the new laws. Wealth transfer strategies through gifting Because of the larger exemptions and lower tax rates, there may be unprecedented opportunities for gifting. By making gifts up to the exemption amount, you can significantly reduce the value of your estate without incurring gift tax. In addition, any future appreciation on the gifted assets will escape taxation. Assets with the most potential to increase in value, such as real estate (e.g., a vacation home), expensive art, furniture, jewelry, and closely held business interests, offer the best tax savings opportunity. Gifting may be done in several different forms. These include direct gifts to individuals, gifts made in trust (e.g., grantor retained annuity trusts and qualified personal residence trusts), and intra-family loans.  Currently, you can also employ techniques that leverage the high exemptions to potentially provide an even greater tax benefit (for example, creating a family limited partnership may also provide valuation discounts for tax purposes). For high-net-worth married couples, gifting to an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) designed as a dynasty trust can reduce estate size while providing a substantial gift for multiple generations (depending on how long a trust can last under the laws of your particular state). The value of the gift may be increased (leveraged) by the purchase of second-to-die life insurance within the trust. Further, the larger exemptions enable you to increase, gift tax free, the premiums paid for life insurance policies that are owned by the ILIT or other family members.  Premium payments on such policies are taxable gifts, so these premium payments are often limited to avoid incurring gift tax. This in turn restricts the amount of life insurance that can be purchased. But the increased exemptions provide the opportunity to make significantly greater gifts of premium payments, which can be used to buy a larger life insurance policy. Before implementing a gifting plan, however, there are a few issues you should consider.
  • Can you afford to make the gift in the first place (you may need those assets and the related cash flow in the future)?
  • Do you anticipate that your estate will be subject to estate taxes at your death?
  • Is minimizing estate taxes more important to you than retaining control over the asset?
  • Do you have concerns about gifting large amounts to your heirs (i.e., is the recipient competent to manage the asset)?
  • Does the transfer tax savings outweigh the potential capital gains tax the recipient may incur if the asset is later sold? The recipient of the gift gets a carryover basis (i.e., your tax basis) for income tax purposes. On the other hand, property left to an individual as a result of death will generally receive a step-up in cost basis to fair market value at date of death, resulting in potentially less income tax to pay when such an asset is ultimately sold.
Caution:  The amount of gift tax exemption you used in the past will reduce the $5,340,000 available to you in 2014. For example, a person who used $1 million of his or her exemption in 2012, will be able to make additional gifts totaling $4,340,000 during 2014 free from gift tax. Tip:  In addition to this opportunity to transfer a significant amount of wealth tax free, it's important to remember that you can still take advantage of the $14,000 per person per year annual gift tax exclusion for 2013 and 2014. Also, gifts of tuition payments and payment of medical expenses (if paid directly to the institutions) are still tax free and can be made at any time. ©2013 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.