Dynasty Trusts: A Great Estate Planning Tool

The WSJ has this useful perspective on dynasty trusts and inheriting in trust. Dynasty trusts enable families to take care of future generations and ensure their philanthropic and business legacy while protecting hard-earned wealth from creditors, divorcing spouses, and other potential money drains. My firm counsels Kansas and Missouri clients to use Missouri dynasty trusts to help achieve their estate planning goals.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, has experience working with individuals and families to serve their business and estate planning. I enjoy working with a variety of clients – ranging from single young professionals with minimal assets to multimillionaire business owners with complex trusts. My firm has strong relationships with local and national trust companies to help administer all types and ranges of trusts. If my law firm can help you or your family with your estate planningelder lawasset protectionbusiness law needs, or digital estate planning, including advising on trustee removal or other fiduciary litigation, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient appointment.

(c) 2014, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

 

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Protecting Your Business and Assets

The Kansas City Business Journal has this helpful article with strategies for protecting your business and assets if a divorce or other unpleasantness arises in your life.

While divorce or creditor lawsuits are never welcome developments in someone’s game plan, the best offense is a good defense. My firm has experience working with individuals and families throughout the business and estate planning processes. I’ve enjoyed working with clients ranging from single young professionals who want to plan for the future to business owners with complex trusts and tens of millions in assets. If my law firm can help you or your family with your estate planningelder lawasset protectionbusiness law needs, or digital estate planning, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient appointment. I want to make business and estate planning simple and straightforward to serve your legal needs and help protect you and your business from lurking liabilities.

(c) 2014, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

Estate Planning Like a Billionaire

Bloomberg has this fascinating article exploring grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor retained income trusts (GRITs) and how they are used by very wealthy business owners to pass assets to the family without incurring estate or gift taxes. (Longtime readers may recall our discussion of Mitt Romney’s large scale estate planning for his family’s estimated $750 million fortune.) Many estate planning attorneys and accountants make a sport of devising creative methods to help clients save money and pass their wealth on to future generations. The ideas aren’t illegal or unethical, they simply utilize gaps in the IRS Code that Congress and/or the Treasury haven’t solved that yield big savings to clients when multiplied by millions of shares in a given company. Estate planners are careful when practicing on the cutting edge of tax law to gauge how much risk the client is willing to take on (e.g. whether the IRS will void a transaction and send the client a tax bill), how much money is at stake, and how reliable/tested a technique is. While the estate planning techniques discussed in the Bloomberg article have been blessed by various authorities (the IRS, the Tax Court, or others), many advanced trust or tax techniques are in a legal grey area – we know X is illegal and we know Y is OK, but what about something between X and Y?

In law school, the first day of estate planning class with Prof. Martin Dickinson, he told us a story about a family business in a small town where a father gave his wife and each of his 4 children a 20% stake in the family business (worth about $5,000 each at the time, the annual gift tax exemption) in 1953. 60 years later, that family business is called Wal Mart and each 20% stake is worth $20 billion. So $100 billion was transferred without estate or gift tax liability. Sam Walton relates the story in his autobiography Made in America and credits his fraternity brother and banker, R. Crosby Kemper Jr., of UMB Bank with helping him develop the business. Here’s Bloomberg’s visual of some of the tricks of the estate planning world.

Inheriting in trust is better than inheriting money in your individual name, as it protects your inheritance from lawsuits, creditors, and divorcing spouses, among other unpleasant life surprises. Inheriting in trust using a discretionary trust provides asset protection. Asset protection uses a separate entity (e.g. a trust or LLC) to hold an asset and protect it from your creditors, divorcing spouses, spendthrift kids, or others. Asset protection trusts are not allowed under Kansas law (see K.S.A. 33-101), but Kansas and Missouri residents can use a Missouri trust to protect assets for generations. Missouri (unlike Kansas) welcomes dynasty trusts – irrevocable trusts designed to pass wealth across families for generations – and allows them to last indefinitely. For clients who anticipate inheriting over $400,000, we recommend a Missouri inheritor’s trust. An inheritor’s trust allows you to protect the assets and keep them off your balance sheet for tax purposes (so you don’t have to worry about estate, gift, or generation-skipping taxes) while having the assets available for your use and enjoyment.

My firm has experience working with individuals and families to serve their business, estate planning, and nonprofit/charitable/philanthropic needs. I enjoy working with a variety of clients – ranging from single young professionals with minimal assets to multimillionaire business owners with complex trusts. My firm has strong relationships with local and national trust companies to help administer all types and ranges of trusts. If my law firm can help you or your family with your estate planningelder lawasset protectionbusiness law needs, or digital estate planning, including a Walton GRAT, a GRIT, or other sophisticated trust planning, call me (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient appointment.

IRS CIRCULAR 230 Disclosure: Unless expressly stated otherwise, any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this blog post or links is not intended or written by Johnson Law KC LLC to be used to avoid IRS or other tax penalties, and any tax advice cannot be used to avoid penalties that may be imposed by the IRS.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Bad Estate Planning: Celebrity Edition

According to this Daily Mail (UK) article, James Gandolfini’s will (following “The Sopranos” star’s recent death in Rome from a heart attack) distributes his $70 million estate so that massive estate taxes (about $30 million) are likely to be owed. One estate planning attorney remarked on the will that ‘It’s a nightmare from a tax standpoint,’ and the will’s segregation of assets was a ‘big mistake’ and the will itself ‘a disaster.’ To be fair, Mr. Gandolfini’s will hasn’t been published yet and it’s not clear whether he had trusts or other entities that held assets. But it sounds like his estate plan may not have been well done, not complex enough for his level of wealth or portfolio structure.

We can learn from the bad estate planning of celebrities and tragic deaths that happen far too early is the importance of good planning. If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your family with your estate planning, elder law, asset protection, small business, or probate needs, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

Offshore Banking

Costco’s member magazine has this interesting discussion about offshore bank accounts in its July 2013 issue. (I also recommend this interview with noted author Tom Wolfe, which explores his life and writing.)  They ask various members whether offshore bank accounts are ethical, should be legal, or should be taxed differently than American bank accounts. We know that many celebrities and politicians have offshore bank accounts – see this blog post for more details.

Ethical questions about offshore banking center on whether the account owner is paying a “fair” level of tax on the account. Complicating matters is that the IRS Code treats Americans’ investments abroad differently from other countries – the IRS collects tax on an American’s accounts or investments anywhere in the world, while many other countries only collect tax on accounts their citizens hold domestically (e.g. a Briton who holds an account in London and an account in New York would only pay British taxes on the London account).

Offshore banking may be unavoidable, even inevitable, for many professionals and business owners. If you have a factory or business colleagues or partners overseas or offices around the globe, you may have to use offshore banking accounts. And many companies, mutual funds, IRAs, and other investment vehicles have extensive overseas holdings, which can be a good thing to diversify accounts, invest in emerging markets, and collaborate with business partners around the world.

What do you think? Should offshore accounts and banking and tax havens be allowed or outlawed? Are they ethical? If so, when? Should they be taxed differently than American accounts or investments?

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help you or your family with your estate planning or asset protection needs, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a convenient, free consultation.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Intent, Trusts, and No Contest Clauses

The Kansas Supreme Court recently issued an interesting decision in Hamel v. Hamel, arising from Rooks County, Kansas (north central Kansas). Hamel teaches us 3 lessons: as you contemplate estate planning, business succession, and your wealth management goals, be sure (1) your estate planning documents clearly communicate your intent , (2) others (family members and professional advisors) understand your intent, and (3) your estate planning documents provide broad discretion and the necessary powers to handle various transactions. Intent matters and clearly communicating your intent makes all the difference.

Hamel involved Lawrence Hamel, a trust beneficiary and child of the decedent, Arthur Hamel, challenging his father’s trust, specifically whether the trustee had authority to sell farmland owned by the trust. Arthur’s trust said another son (who was a trustee of the trust), Dennis,  had priority (or first refusal rights) to buy the land owned by the trust, and that Dennis had 3 years to buy the land from the trust. Dennis signed an installment sale contract to buy the land over 6 years, paying 5% interest (no interest during the 6th year), funding the purchase with money from the trust with a mere $10,000 down payment, and for Dennis to get all the income and profit the land generated during the 6 years. So Dennis wanted to self deal with the trust on very favorable terms (he was a trustee in his fiduciary capacity and the buyer in his individual capacity, a conflict of interest which the trust waived), have a year of payments interest fee, minimal down payment, and get the land’s revenue before he owned the land. Not surprisingly, Dennis’ brother Lawrence objected. Lawrence pointed out that while their father had wanted Dennis to have the land and permitted favorable inter-family sale terms, the deal had to be done within 3 years, not 6. Enter the trust’s no contest clause, which said if you object to the sale or other trust administration aspects, you lose your inheritance.

This family’s trust dispute wound up at the Kansas Supreme Court. The Justices, in an 8-1 opinion, agreed with Lawrence that the 6 year installment sale to Dennis was too long, since the trust only allowed for 3 years. Instead of enforcing the no contest clause (and disinherit Lawrence for his objections to the farm sale), the Court found that Lawrence had probable cause to challenge the sale of the farm from the trust to his brother. The Court found probable cause in the 3 year sale provision: “while the Trustees [Dennis and a sister] possessed broad authority to sell the Trust real estate, they were not authorized to enter into a contract for the sale of the farmland that extended beyond the 3-year period specifically provided by the Trust.” (Hamel, pg. 24) The installment sale could go far, but not that far. As the Court saw it, Lawrence was just looking out for the Trust’s best interests (the Trustee’s job and fiduciary duty), when the Trustees were cutting corners, so of course he could object and make the Trustees follow the Trust’s rules. The Court didn’t address it, but there may also have been tax traps lurking beneath the surface of this installment sale. The IRS looks closely at inter-family sale and transactions and asks: (1) was the farm properly valued (or did the family take too many discounts)? (2) is the buyer paying the seller a fair market rate of interest for the entire installment sale period? (interest free loans are gifts) (3) is the buyer a bona fide purchaser, or is the “sale” really just a gift wrapped in different paper?

Installment sales are an important technique for asset protection, estate planning, and business succession planning. But they have to be carefully structured and done right, or the result is a long, expensive, contentious, public mess. Installment sales are frequently used by serial entrepreneurs trying to transition a business; farmers, ranchers and landowners trying to pass the family farm on to the next generation, or business owners who are ready to retire from the day-to-day grind. When coupled with a Missouri inheritor’s trust (a beneficiary defective inheritor’s trust), grantor trust (an intentionally defective grantor trust), a FLP (family limited partnership), or a family LLC (family limited liability company), an installment sale can be an efficient, effective, and integral part of a complex estate plan. A good installment sale will freeze an asset’s value for tax purposes, get it off your balance sheet (for tax and asset protection purposes), and add value to the asset’s legacy for generations.

If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can serve you or your family’s legal needs, call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Preparing Your Kids for an Inheritance

The WSJ/Barron’s has this fascinating article about the new $5.25 million per person lifetime gift tax exemption that Congress passed as part of the deal to avert the fiscal cliff. But the question that arises, especially as some young, wealthy heirs and heiresses’ antics grace the tabloid and Internet headlines: can a child properly handle their inheritance? If you give your child $5 million, will they save and invest it wisely, or will they spend it frivolously and waste your hard-earned wealth and financial legacy to them? This age-old issue is nothing new – there’s a non-tax reason that custodian bank accounts exist for minors, that trusts are popular, that savings bonds, CDs, and 529 college savings accounts exist – parents and grandparents need to be able to shepherd the money their children and grandchildren will receive. Yes, a gift is giving away money without formal strings attached – not reserving some right to take it back if a financial rainy day comes along, if your child wastes the money on things you don’t approve of, or if the child turns out not to have any financial or investing sense. But legal techniques exist to help protect the gift while your child learns how to work with their inheritance.

If the economic downtown hit your portfolio like high tide hitting a beautifully crafted sand castle on the beach (as it impacted most people’s hard-earned investments, savings, and home equity), or if you’re still working to build up wealth as the economy slowly recovers, you may be looking at smaller gifts for family members. Maybe  you anticipate giving tens or hundreds of thousands to loved ones, not millions. The same principle still applies – can you child or grandchild handle getting a check for $5,000, $10,000, $100,000?

Parents and grandparents need to talk with their children and grandchildren about money, investing, saving, and inheritances. It may not be an easy or fun talk and it might be awkward at first, but it’s a lot easier to discuss now than when you’re gravely ill or when your family is trying to clean up a messy estate after you’ve died. Look for some tips on how to inherit and handling an inheritance soon on this blog. In the meantime, if I can help you or your family with your estate planning, small business, or asset protection needs, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com). At Johnson Law KC LLC, we’re here to serve your needs – now and for many years to come.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Happy New Year: The “Fiscal Cliff,” Your Taxes and Estate Planning

Happy New Year! While the nation technically went over the “fiscal cliff” at 12:01 am Tuesday morning, the U.S. Congress has reached a deal to retroactively avert the fiscal cliff crisis and the bill has passed the House and Senate. Here’s the scoop:

  • Portability survives – you can use your deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption. Using portability requires filing an federal estate tax return (even if no estate tax is owed) and careful tax planning with your attorney.
  • Estate and gift tax exemptions are $5.25 million per person (inflated adjusted). Using portability, a married couple can give their children $10.50 million. The maximum estate tax rate is 40% on estates over $5.25 million. See Sec. 101 (c)(2) (page 11) of the Senate bill for exact estate tax rates. See Sec. 101(c)(3)(A) (estate and gift transfers after 12/31/2012).
  • Annual gift tax exclusion is now $14,000 per person/year ($28,000 per couple/year), as the IRS announced an inflation adjustment in November 2012.
  • Generation skipping tax exemption is $5.25 million per person. See Sec. 101(c)(3)(A) (generation skipping transfers after 12/31/2012).
  • Grantor income tax trust rules the same. So intentionally defective grantor and beneficiary defective trusts (IDGTs and BDITs) are legal wealth transfer techniques for estate and business planning. These trusts allow parents to transfer wealth, businesses, farms, and other assets to their families without the assets being included in the parents’ estates, while being income taxable to the grantor or the beneficiary, depending on the trust’s design.

The fiscal cliff deal also includes new income tax rates, capital gain tax rates, and other tax provisions of interest to individuals, couples, small business owners, farmers, and ranchers. Individuals earning more than $400,000 per year, or couples earning more than $450,000 per year, should contact their accountant immediately on these issues. Forbes has this helpful article on how the fiscal cliff deal affects various taxes, IRAs, charitable deductions, and other planning considerations.

If I can help you or your family with estate planning or small business or family farm transfer planning, please contact our office, Johnson Law KC LLC – call us at (913) 707-9220 or email us at steve@johnsonlawkc.com.

In reaching the fiscal cliff deal, Congress delayed until March dealing with the massive spending cuts that are required by law as part of the last budget deal (the sequestration cuts). While it seems unlikely, it’s possible that Congress will revisit some of these rules in March or add additional restrictions to existing estate planning techniques. If Congress did change these rules in March, there’s a small probability of having 2 estate tax regimes (as we did in 2010, where an estate could elect a stepped-up basis and pay estate tax, or use a carryover basis without owing estate tax).

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”: Give $10.24 Million to Your Family, Tax Free

The NYT has this interesting article profiling Jonathan Blattmachr and his wife, Betsy, and their estate planning strategy. Blattmachr is one of the nation’s most preeminent estate planning attorneys and a tax law expert than many attorneys, accountants, and others read for advice on navigating the complex labyrinth that is the IRS Code. He’s a classic example of the Type A personality who immerses himself in the materials of a particular topic and then declares with certainty (often to others’ bemusement) that he’s absolutely certain if you do X, Y will occur. Most attorneys, accountants, and other estate planning professionals are smart, analytical, and risk averse; Blattmachr is the proverbial smartest guy in the room who believes (and often convinces others) that he’s devised a solution so ingenious that despite the critics’ howls and groans, it’s flawless and incontrovertible. And he’s usually right: his work holds up well under IRS attack.

Estate planning attorneys across America have been encouraging affluent clients to max out their $5.12 million lifetime gift tax exemptions before Dec 31, 2012 (since the exemption falls back to $1 million on Jan 1, 2013) (pardon the cheesy title, but clients are well-advised to take advantage of these historically high exemptions). And because of a(n IRS approved) technique called “split gifting,” if you’re married, your $5.12 million individual exemption is actually $10.24 million. So far so good, right? Well, as the article mentions, there’s an old tax law ghoul called the reciprocal trust doctrine. And the reciprocal trust doctrine says if a husband and wife set up trusts with identical terms that make each other beneficiaries and trustees, the IRS can step in and pull the plug, and tell the couple that their clever estate planning is undone and the $10.24 million gift (designed to remove assets from their estates) is now back in their estates (and taxable at the 45%+ estate tax rate). The reciprocal trust doctrine prohibits the wink wink nod nod, quid pro quo, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine estate planning strategy in irrevocable trusts. But there are ways around the reciprocal trust doctrine.

To avoid the reciprocal trust doctrine, attorneys vary the terms of the trusts. We (1) set them up at different times, (2) name different beneficiaries, (3) name different trustees, and otherwise vary the terms to make them materially different.

If you’re looking to set up trusts for your family and descendants, sell or transition your small business, or do other estate planning before 2013, time’s running out. Our firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, has experience advising individuals, families, small business owners, and entrepreneurs in all facets of estate planning – whether simple or complex – and we can handle your other legal needs as well. Give us a call (913-707-9220) or email (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) if we can be of service to you.

(c) 2012, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Inheriting in Trust

Yahoo Finance and CNBC have this interesting story about Whitney Houston’s daughter. The famed pop star’s daughter is set to inherit a large fortune from her late mother’s estate, but some of the daughter’s advisers are concerned that the inheritance will make her a target for creditors. Inheriting in trust is better than inheriting money outright, as it protects your inheritance from creditors and divorcing spouses, among other unpleasant surprises in life. Inheriting in trust using a discretionary trust gets into an estate planning buzz word, asset protection. Asset protection is using an entity, usually a trust or LLC, to hold an asset and protect it from your creditors, divorcing spouses, spendthrift kids, or others who might squander your money. Asset protection and discretionary trusts are not allowed under Kansas law, but Kansas and Missouri residents can use a Missouri trust to protect assets for generations. Missouri (unlike Kansas) welcomes dynasty trusts – irrevocable trusts designed to pass wealth across families for generations – and allows them to last indefinitely. For clients who anticipate receiving more than $400,000 in inheritance, we recommend a beneficiary defective inheritor’s trust (BDIT or inheritor’s trust). An inheritor’s trust allows you to protect the assets and keep them off your balance sheet for tax purposes (so you don’t have to worry about estate, gift, or generation-skipping taxes) while having the assets available for your use and enjoyment.

Our firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, is experienced counseling clients on all aspects of estate planning, asset protection, and inheritor’s trusts. If we can serve you or your family with these sensitive matters, please call (913-707-9220) or email us (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) to schedule a convenient appointment.

(c) 2012, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.