High Net Worth Estate Planning
Our firm understands that our high net worth clients want to not only transfer wealth and minimize inheritance tax, but to create an enduring legacy that passes on values as well as assets.
Although the federal estate tax exemption is currently favorable at $11.58 million per person, the sunsetting of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on December 31, 2025 raises the prospect of exclusions decreasing to pre-2018 levels. Therefore, those with estates over $5.85 million will want to discuss with an estate planning attorney the various transfer techniques available to take advantage of the larger exclusion amount before the anticipated sunset.
Our firm regularly assists affluent families with such sophisticated planning strategies as Family Limited Partnerships or Limited Liability Companies‚ Qualified Personal Residence Trusts‚ Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts and a wide range of charitable gifting techniques to reduce Federal Estate Taxes‚ Gift Taxes and Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes.
Family Limited Partnerships
A Family Limited Partnership (FLP) is a form of a limited partnership among members of a family. The main advantages of forming and funding an FLP involve estate and gift tax savings and asset protection. An FLP also allows you to retain control over the transferred assets while enjoying these advantages.
Once the FLP is established and your assets are transferred to it‚ you can make gifts of limited partnership interests to your children or other beneficiaries. This accomplishes several different estate planning objectives simultaneously.
First‚ the value of each limited partnership interest which you give away decreases the value of your taxable estate and‚ consequently‚ any tax which your heirs would have to pay upon your death. The gifts are made using the annual gift tax exclusion‚ so you do not have to pay any gift tax on the transfer.
Second‚ the value of the partnership interests transferred to your beneficiaries is far less than the corresponding value of the assets in the partnership. Since limited partners do not have the ability to direct or control the day-to-day operation of the partnership‚ a minority discount can be applied to reduce the value of the limited partnership interests which you are gifting. Furthermore‚ because the partnership is a closely-held entity and not publicly-traded‚ a discount can be applied based upon the lack of marketability of the limited partnership interest. This allows you to leverage the FLP as a vehicle to transfer more wealth to your beneficiaries‚ while retaining control of the underlying assets. Lastly‚ a properly-structured FLP can have creditor protection characteristics since the general partners are not obligated to distribute earnings of the partnership.
Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
Our homes are often our most valuable assets and hence one of the largest components of our taxable estate. A Qualified Personal Residence Trust or a QPRT (pronounced “cue-pert“ allows you to give away your house or vacation home at a great discount‚ freeze its value for estate tax purposes‚ and still continue to live in it. Here is how it works: You transfer the title to your house to the QPRT (usually for the benefit of your family members), reserving the right to live in the house for a specified number of years. If you live to the end of the specified period, the house (as well as any appreciation in its value since the transfer) passes to your children or other beneficiaries free of any additional estate or gift taxes. After the end of the specified period‚ you may continue to live in the home but you must pay rent to your family or designated beneficiary in order to avoid inclusion of the residence in your estate. This may be an added benefit as it serves to further reduce the value of your taxable estate‚ though the rent income does have income tax consequences for your family. If you die before the end of the period‚ the full value of the house will be included in your estate for estate tax purposes‚ though in most cases you are no worse off than you would have been had you not established a QPRT. An added benefit of the QPRT is that it also serves as an excellent asset/creditor protection vehicle since you no longer technically own the property once the trust is established and your residence is transferred to the QPRT.
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
There is a common misconception that life insurance proceeds are not subject to Federal Estate Taxes. While the proceeds are received by your loved ones free of any income taxes‚ they are countable as part of your taxable estate and therefore your loved ones can lose about half of its value to estate taxes.
An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust is created specifically for the purpose of owning your life insurance policy. A properly established and administered trust holds the policy outside of your estate and keeps the proceeds from being taxable to your estate. The proceeds from the insurance policy can then be used to provide your estate with the liquidity to pay estate taxes‚ pay off debts‚ pay final expenses and provide income to a surviving spouse or children. The ILIT will be the policy owner and beneficiary. Once your trust is established‚ you use your annual gift tax exclusion to make cash gifts to your trust. Your beneficiaries forgo the present gift (in lieu of the future proceeds) and the trustee uses the remaining gift to pay the premium on the life insurance policy.
There are many options available when setting up an ILIT. For example‚ ILITs can be structured to provide income to a surviving spouse with the remainder going to your children from a previous marriage. You can also provide for distribution of a limited amount of the insurance proceeds over a period of time to a financially irresponsible child.
Our firm is dedicated to helping clients make educated‚ informed decisions about their assets and will work with you and your team of financial advisors and CPAs to implement a highly sophisticated and effective estate plan that allows for the maximum transfer of assets to your loved ones