Beware the Oft Spoken Line to Seniors: “Transfer Ownership of Your House to Your Kids!”
Should parents transfer their home into their adult children’s names, deeding the house to their kids? This is one of the most common questions that comes up when discussing estate planning with families.
In fact, oftentimes families assume that this preferred and correct handling based on the “advice” you or your adult kids have received from well-meaning friends and family—even the internet. The intention of a transfer is always the same. You and your family want to preserve your family home from a required spend down of your assets should you need extensive medical care in a nursing home or acute care facility.
The fact is, no two families are alike. Don’t sign a deed transferring your house to your kids without taking these important first steps: Have conversations about appropriately protecting your assets with your family and then post haste make an appointment with your estate attorney. Recognizing the potential risks of arbitrarily transferring ownership of your home to your kids will give you a clearer picture of why a willy-nilly transfer is a really bad idea.
Timing is Everything
It may be too late to consider a transfer if a diagnosis of an illness or condition has just been made. Medicaid looks back five years for major financial transactions. If the goal is to reduce your assets so you can qualify for Medicaid, remember that Medicaid will review financial transactions over the last five years. The transfer of a home within this 5-year window constitutes a red flag and may disqualify you from Medicaid nursing home coverage unless there are sufficient other assets to cover the costs during the 5-year period.
Emotional Decision-Making Won’t Do
Having your adult children help you with your financial needs late in life can be challenging. Your emotions do not always help you make the best decisions. A desire to keep the long-time family home in the family or, perhaps less charitably a sense of entitlement on the part of some or all of your children who believe that it should be the family legacy, do not typically lead to sound actions. There are many laws and rules to navigate, and time may not be on your side. Plus, the decision cannot be one-sided. If you are capable of sound decision-making, your wishes combined with the guidance of your estate attorney, financial advisor, or CPA must agree on the best course of action for you and your family. Allowing your kids to be privy to these conversations and have a voice is also a good strategy for family harmony.
Uncle Sam Comes Calling
Transferring your principal residence to a family member may disqualify you from part or all of the capital gains tax exclusion on the sale of the residence and cause unnecessary income tax liability when the residence is sold in the future. Consider the hefty tax bill for either a parent or their children from a capital gains tax on any gain (e.g., profit) on the house sale if you lose the exclusion and your family decides to sell the house during your lifetime.
Is a Life Estate Deed the Answer?
Individuals often think they achieve the best of all worlds if they establish a transfer of real property through a life estate deed. A life estate deed permits a property owner to have full use and occupancy of their property until their death, at which time your home will be transferred to your children. Because life happens, there are any number of potential pitfalls:
- Your home becomes exposed to the financial problems, liens, and creditors of all the joint owners; what if, for example, one of your children or their family members claimed bankruptcy
- A child or their family member could have a serious accident and if their insurance does not cover the cost of care, liens could be placed on the house
- Your child could become divorced, putting your home at risk as part of the marital settlement
- You may decide you don’t want to live in the house anymore and would like to sell it, but you are at the mercy of your children’s agreement with this decision
- You may want to make repairs to the house to accommodate your aging in place needs, and your children ignore your request for repairs not wanting the financial responsibility associated with those repairs; your children have the right to do this
- Your child could predecease you and the house becomes part of your deceased child’s estate subject to probate of that estate
Appropriate Transfer of Home. Get Guidance First.
Indeed, there are situations in which a transfer will work. For example, Medicaid sometimes recognizes a caregiver child exception that allows you to transfer ownership of your house, provided the adult child has lived in your home for at least two years and provided a level of care that prevented you from required nursing home care. That said, the transfer of the home through a life estate deed would cancel the caregiver exception.
A Trust is another—if not the best way—to transfer home ownership from you to your children. When the house is transferred to the Trust, you establish directions for the administration of the Trust and appoint a Trustee who is required to protect your interests.
Still in either of these situations, the counsel of your estate attorney in collaboration with your financial advisor, and CPA are the professionals best equipped to assist you with these specific situations.
At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig, & Wegbreit, LLC, we are available to answer your questions, inform you of your options, and guide you in both your decision-making and the transfer implementation if all parties determine that a transfer is in your best interests.
Call us at 908- 232-2244 and enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that you are backed by support and knowledge in making informed decisions.
How Much Can You Control Your Kids’ Lives from the Grave?
You want the best for your children, and you want them to inherit your assets when you die. But what happens when you don’t like your son- or-daughter-in-law? How can you prevent your kids’ inheritance money from being commingled with the couple’s marital assets? Can you still exert control from the grave? Should you?
In short, you can, by establishing a trust that prevents assets from passing directly to your child, which prevents the commingling of assets. And in the event one of your kids gets divorced, this trust may preserve these assets from being considered available for alimony obligations. Such a trust is designed to keep money in the family, protecting the inheritance of your children and their descendants. Specifically, assets in the trust can only be used for your children’s or grandchildren’s health, education, maintenance, or support.
Evaluate Your Motives
You may actually be surprised at the number of people who sit in our conference room and want to block their in-laws from touching the family inheritance. The first thing we do is encourage them to evaluate their motives. Is your distrust of a son-or-daughter-in-law based on your knowledge that your son or daughter’s spouse is a spendthrift, gambles, has difficulty holding a job, or treats your child and their children abusively, or similar scenarios? In this case, a trust like this can work to safeguard your assets for your children.
But if your motives are based solely on your dislike, or a fear that your kids’ marriages will end in divorce like 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. do, you may want to think twice. The logistics governing the administration of the trust can get thorny. For starters, best practice encourages appointing an independent Trustee to administer this trust. The result is that your children’s withdrawal rights may also be limited.
In the Name of Love
If there’s income your kids are entitled to get every year or a draw on principal, the trust requires that they must ask the Trustee’s permission for the money to be distributed. Bottom line, while you’ve created a buffer that prevents your in-law from getting to the money, you’re also making it difficult for your son or daughter to access their inheritance. Even though you’re doing this in the name of love, your kids have to penetrate this barrier you created by going to the Trustee to get monies.
And aside from the inconvenience, what does that mean for your kids? How are they going to feel about that? How will they ultimately feel about you? You may not like your son or daughter in law, but your son or daughter may adore them. And despite what you think, they might have a very good marriage. Your feelings could actually throw a monkey wrench or certainly elements of mistrust into a good marriage. Additionally, even if your kids have to ask permission to get the money, distributions made by the Trustee may well be commingled anyway. So, you can never fully control the way your inheritance money is used. You can only make it harder.
Discuss Inheritance Decisions With Your Attorney
At the end of the day, you may not be the best one to decide whether or not inheritance money should be commingled with your kids’ marital moneys. Every situation is different. When you work with one of our attorneys at Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig, and Wegbreit, LLC, you can rest assured we will make sure you evaluate all the ramifications of your decision-making before you finalize your estate plan. We will also make sure you review your plan every 5 years or so, to make sure that it’s consistent with your perspective and the inevitable changes in your family situation.
Calls us at 908-232-2244 to ensure that the decisions you make today will work well for your loved ones tomorrow.
If Capital Gains & Proposed Tax Law Change Could Boost Your Tax Bill a Charitable Trust Could Help
While it’s great to see significant growth in your stock portfolio and the appreciation of your investments is gratifying, the capital gains can cause you problems at tax time. Couple that with proposed estate tax changes coming out of the Biden administration and your heirs could be handed a hefty bill when they inherit your estate.
Proposed Tax Law Changes Amounts You Can Pass Tax Free to Heirs
At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig & Wegbreit, LLC, we can provide you with tools to reduce your estate’s tax burden and gifting strategies that can help minimize your tax bill. The Biden administration, however, has proposed estate tax reform which includes removal of the stepped-up basis. These proposed reforms could potentially increase the tax burden to your estate. That’s why in the current political climate it’s more important than ever to put your head together with your financial advisor, your accountant, and your estate attorney to do some strategic estate planning. Creating an estate plan is your opportunity to provide for your loved ones. The thoughtful time you spend will not only benefit your heirs but also benefit you during your lifetime especially when it comes to estate taxes.
Reduce Your Taxable Estate With an Income Stream to Someone You Love
The good news is that a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may be an option to circumvent changes that may be ahead to significantly reduce the amount of money an individual can gift tax-free during their lifetime and at death. In fact, the primary benefit of a CRT, allows you to reduce your taxable estate while providing an income stream to someone you love.
A CRT is a trust that is funded by an individual during their life. In addition to donating funds to a charitable organization, the CRT makes distribution to a noncharitable beneficiary, which can include the donor or another beneficiary, such as a spouse or child, for a prescribed number of years. A CRT can also offer an opportunity to move assets with a low basis (and corresponding high capital gain).
This is a particularly palatable option if you are charitably inclined and understand that your estate plan serves as a testament to who you are, the values you hold, and the legacy you want. Plus, it addresses the federal estate tax exclusion change currently on the table by limiting or eliminating the amount that will be subject to estate tax upon your death. As attractive, it also can eliminate capital gains on appreciated property, reducing income tax liability during the years of your life when you likely need it most.
Income Stream a Real Plus
Here’s how it works. The CRT makes a distribution to a noncharitable beneficiary for a fixed number of years or for the rest of their life. This means that you can give yourself or another individual an income stream of either a fixed dollar amount per year or a fixed percentage based on the value of the assets transferred to the trust. At the conclusion of the designated term, the assets that remain in the trust will be paid to the charity you have selected. In the year you create the trust and initiate the asset transfer and for the predetermined period thereafter, you will receive a charitable deduction on your income tax return. The deduction will be based on the value of the transfer, the number of years of the trust, the payout rate, and the number of beneficiaries.
Although there has been no proposal put forth to eliminate the tax benefits of utilizing a properly structured CRT, Biden’s proposed plan would impose a 28 percent limit on charitable deductions for taxpayers making over $400,0000 per year in income. This compares to the current environment in which a high-income earner can make a $100,000 charitable gift and write off $37,000 (the highest marginal tax rate). But under Biden’s plan, the same charitable gift would be limited to a $28,000 income tax write-off, with 28 percent being the proposed limit for deductions for charitable giving for those in a higher income tax bracket. Despite this reduction in the write-off limit, however, there is still substantial savings on your income tax. Your accountant and attorney will work together to maximize the amount of charitable deduction you will be able to take on your income tax return.
Heart Centered and Money Wise
At the end of the day, by making this transfer, you have simultaneously maximized the philanthropic benefit of a charitable gift while avoiding the payment of capital gains tax on your highly appreciated assets. You have also subsequently reduced the value of your estate for your heirs which is an important consideration in light of the potential tax changes on the horizon. As importantly, you have not given up the benefit you received from the underlying asset, as you have converted it into an income stream for a period of time.
There is a long road between proposed revisions to the tax law and their enactment. But even in the current environment, capital gains on low basis assets may still be an issue that can cause you significant taxation. At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig & Wegbreit, LLC, we have always been available to guide you on approaches that can enable you to make investment decisions that will minimize taxation for you during your lifetime as well as for your loved ones when they inherit your estate. In light of the current political environment, there is no better time to work with your accountant, your financial advisor, and your estate attorney to review your estate plan as well as gifting strategies.
Call us at (908) 232-2244 to understand the benefits of charitable giving. Learn how it can be incorporated into a well-designed estate plan that will benefit not only your heirs upon your death but also put your assets to work for you during your lifetime.
AVERAGE AMERICANS TO THE UBER WEALTHY COULD PAY MORE ESTATE TAX TO UNCLE SAM
Proposed Estate Tax Reform Seeks to Cut the Stepped-Up Basis, Raise Tax Rate
A provision in President Joe Biden’s relief plan could cause average Americans along with the uber wealthy to pay more to the federal government when they die, which means your kids or other heirs may get less than they would under the current estate tax laws.
President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package, the American Families Plan, includes a proposal to change the way capital gains are taxed when people pass away. According to economic policy experts, the revision to a tax rule called the stepped-up basis has the potential of being a big revenue raiser for the plan. This, coupled with Biden’s proposed reduction in the federal estate tax exemption to $3.5 million likely will result in tax hikes for not only for the uber wealthy and the well-off but also for everyone who has something of value to pass along to heirs.
The proposed changes are not yet law, and there will surely be lots of Congressional haggling over the measures. But they’re out there and looming. Right now, it’s important for you to keep abreast of what’s going on in Washington and keep in touch with your accountant, financial planner, and estate attorney to make sure you get a handle on how estate tax reform will specifically impact your estate situation.
Inheritance With and Without the Stepped-Up Basis
The stepped-up basis is defined in IRS Tax Code 1014 which says the basis of an inherited asset rises to “the fair market value of the property at the date of the decedent’s death.” Inherited assets like your house or equities in your stock portfolio typically have gained in value since you purchased them. These capital gains are taxable, but the stepped-up basis wipes out the capital gains tax when heirs inherit an asset, which significantly reduces the tax liability when and if the inheritor eventually sells the asset.
For example, if the house you bought for $200,000 years ago has grown to a fair market value of $700,000, the $500,000 in capital gains would not be taxed when your son or daughter inherits it. Plus, if years later, they sell it for $950,000, their personal capital gains would be valued against the $700,000 fair market value of the house at the time they inherited it. The same would be true for stock. There would be no tax when your heirs inherit it and upon sale, the gains would be based on the difference between the market value at the time of your death and the time they sell it.
With the proposed Biden changes, the step-up basis would be eliminated, and your heirs would be taxed on the carryover basis of $200,000 either at the time of your death or at a future date when they sell the asset—and the taxation may be at a new, higher 39.6 percent rate (which is another part of President Biden’s proposal). The use of the carryover basis would be applicable on all assets transferred in the estate.
Then There’s the Gift Tax
Currently, the unified federal estate and gift tax exemption is at an historically high $11.7 million and integrates both the gift and estate taxes into one tax system. You can give as much as $15,000 to as many people as you want during the year without being subject to a gift tax. If any gift exceeds $15,000, you are required to submit a form to the IRS but not required to pay a tax until, if and when, you exceed the $11.7 million exemption. On December 31, 2025, that exemption, which was increased under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), will sunset to the pre-TCJA level of $ 5.3 million per person. President Biden, however, has proposed that the estate and gift tax exemptions be decoupled and return to 2009 levels: $3.5 million for the estate tax exemption and $1 million for the gift tax exemption with an increased maximum estate tax rate of 45 percent up from the current flat 40 percent rate.
What You Should and Can Do Now
If you’re planning your estate now, reviewing your current plan, or expect to be the beneficiary of an inheritance, we recommend you consider these strategies to better arm yourself for potential changes Congress may make to the estate tax code.
- Gather Up all Your Records – If you’re not certain where you’ve put all these records, now is the time to find them, store them in a safe place, and send copies to your accountant and your estate attorney. One reason the current stepped up basis rule exists is that it can be difficult to keep track of an asset’s cost basis. In the case of real estate, for example, records of the kitchen renovation or the addition you built several years ago would favorably impact the carryover basis, making it higher. Similarly, if you reinvested dividends and interest in your stock portfolio, that too, would increase the carryover basis.
- Consider Making Charitable Donations or Establish Trusts – You can still donate an appreciated asset to a qualified charitable organization and receive a deduction on the full market value. Trusts will allow you to pass assets to heirs with as little tax as possible.
- Purchase an Insurance Policy – If you’re leaving an asset or assets that you anticipate will cause your heirs to face a big tax bill, consider including a life insurance policy as part of your estate. This will help your heirs pay the tax.
- Gift Prudently – You must seriously think about how you make large lifetime gifts. Even now, we advise clients who want to reduce their estate or get assets out of their names to gift liquid assets. Gifting liquid assets with no capital gains implications makes more sense than an asset like your house or your stock.
- Stay in Touch – Start talking or continue your dialogue with your tax advisors (e.g., your accountant, financial advisor, and your estate attorney). With potential estate tax reform on the horizon, staying connected with these professionals is more important than ever. Change can be daunting but being informed will enable you to be ahead of the curve and, therefore, more flexible and at the ready to make specific adjustments quickly.
At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig & Wegbreit, LLC, we are knowledgeable of estate tax laws and issues and stay continually abreast of the ongoing changes in estate tax law—and are always available to provide you with the guidance you need for your unique situation.
Call us at (908) 232-2244 to ensure that you’ll be fully prepared for whatever estate tax reform Congress may send your way.
To Transfer or Not: Should You Deed Your House to Your Adult Children?
Thorough Research, Careful Evaluation and Attorney Consult Can Help You Decide
“Should aging parents transfer their home to their adult children?” You’ve probably heard others, perhaps even your friends, ask this question. This is a topic that also frequently makes the news.
The answer: There is no one “right” answer. No easy answer.
The best guidance is to diligently do your homework and consult your estate attorney. Research the pros and cons of a house transfer from a parent to an adult child. Then, determine how the implications of the transfer will apply to your particular family situation. It’s only then that you’ll be positioned to make a decision that works for you and your family.
Preserving assets: a top priority
The most important consideration is to preserve assets. A house is typically your largest asset, especially if your mortgage is fully or significantly paid off. It is, therefore, undesirable to put a drain on any of your assets while you are alive but in need of the long-term care that can bankrupt you financially or force you to sell your house. In these situations, people often wish to seek relief by turning to Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that helps people with limited income and few assets cover health care costs.
Puzzling over Medicaid and some misconceptions
People often think they are ineligible for Medicaid coverage of nursing home costs and doctor’s bills simply because they own property or have some money in the bank. They believe that getting their home out of their own name will enable them to receive the benefit more easily and often use it as a go-to strategy. The reality is, however, that the transfer of assets can have wide-ranging impacts which, in the end, can impact your ability to be considered eligible for Medicaid. What’s required is understanding the rules and making a legal and financial plan, typically with legal and financial professions, to ensure they are met.
Medicaid eligibility requires that an individual’s combined assets be less than $2,000 in order to receive help with payment for care. In certain situations, your home is not considered a countable asset for Medicaid eligibility purposes, especially if you, your spouse, or a dependent relative continues to reside in the property.
Medicaid’s five-year lookback period is perhaps the largest factor that must be considered. Any gifts or uncompensated transfers that have been made in the five years immediately prior to the Medicaid application will result in a penalty period and delay eligibility for months, even permanently. Therefore, an ill-timed transfer could penalize an individual rather than enhance eligibility.
Still, there are circumstances in which it is legal to transfer a house, but these circumstances often come with a double-edged sword. You may freely transfer your home without incurring a transfer penalty to:
- Your spouse
- Your under 21-year-old-child who is blind or disabled
- Your caretaker child who has lived in the house for two years prior to your entering an acute or long-term care facility can also be the legal recipient of a transfer, as long as that child provided care to you during that two-year period.
That being said, Medicaid can put a lien on your house for the amount of money spent on your care. Similarly, if the house is sold while you are still alive, you will likely have to satisfy the lien by paying back the state. There is also an option called estate recovery which under certain conditions allows the government to recover the cost of your care from your estate.The appropriateness of a decision to transfer one’s home for Medicaid purposes is one with which many seniors and families struggle. More often than not, it’s a choice dependent on an individual’s unique circumstances and the real-time monetary values involved in a situation.
For example, a typical scenario which could favor moving the home out of a couples’ name may involve a 70-year-old couple, say, a healthy wife and a husband suffering with Alzheimer’s. The cost of the husband’s long-term care may be exorbitant and the wife will need money to live on herself. And there is always the desire to leave a financial legacy of their hard-earned money for their kids and grandchildren.
Avoiding a hefty tax bill with a Will or Trust
Taxation is another reason you may give thought to transferring your home to your adult children. In lieu of simply handing over the deed to your son or daughter, there are other ways to transfer your home out of your name. The fact is that gifting your home can involve a hefty bill that taxes your son or daughter on the capital gains derived from your home’s increased market value.
Say you bought your home 50 years ago for $25,000, and now it’s worth half a million dollars. That $475,000 increase comes with a huge tax hit for your kids on the capital gains earned between the purchase price and the current market price. That tax could be avoided if they inherit the property after you die. In the latter scenario, your kids will receive what’s called a step-up basis equal to the value of the house at the time they inherited it rather than the value of the house at the time you purchased it.
People are also skittish about probate and sometimes rush to judgement and transfer their home willy-nilly to their kids. In reality, in most states—New Jersey among them—probate is nothing to fear. In fact, most states even have simplified probate procedures for smaller estates. If you are really worried about probate, you can also establish a living or revocable trust to avoid probate—not estate taxation—but this may not really be necessary depending on the cost and complexity of probate in your estate.
Probate is quite expensive and time-consuming in only a few states, such as California and Florida. In those states, as well as in the situation in which you own homes in more than one state, you may want to work with your estate attorney to develop strategies for wealth transfer. In general, however, many individuals perceive probate as something much more daunting than it actually is.
Trusting your kids: a must
One of the most important considerations for you when reflecting on how to treat your home centers on the conversations you have with your children about your intentions regarding your assets. If your objective is to keep the house in the family, it’s essential that you trust that your adult children are aligned with that value especially while you are alive.
This goal is often compromised when adult children live out of state and feel increasingly detached from the home in which they were raised. They could also be facing their own, sometimes extreme, financial difficulties which could subject your home to liens and/or require your adult child to sell your house to satisfy his or her creditors.
Then, too, if your child divorces, your house could be considered an asset to be divided or dealt with as part of the property agreement with his or her former spouse. Finally, there are health situations in which a transfer could work to your adult child’s disadvantage. Your grandchild, for example, could become disabled and require Medicaid or other government benefits. The fact that your adult child owns your house could prevent your grandchild from qualifying for those benefits.
At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig and Wegbreit, LLC, we are here to help you navigate these challenging conversations and decisions so that you can better evaluate your options and determine the best way to preserve your assets, among them your home. We will help you gain clarity around your unique family situation and will work tirelessly to guide you to effective strategies that will best serve your wishes and the future needs of your family.
Call us at 908.232.2244 to schedule an appointment and ensure that the legacy you leave to your loved ones fulfills your every intention and keeps the best interests of you and your family top of mind.
CAPITAL GAINS TAX: A CHARITABLE TRUST MAY BE THE ANSWER
APPRECIATED ASSETS CAN MEAN HIGH CAPITAL GAINS
Many individuals own stock with an extremely low basis, the sale of which would result in significant capital gains. This is often the case for individuals who spend a significant portion of their career with one company and acquired stock during their employment or who inherit a portfolio that is not actively managed and accrues significant growth. Because of the potentially high capital gains, individuals frequently are reluctant to sell some or all of these assets. Of course, the fact that assets have appreciated indicates the investment has been successful, but there is a point at which the unwillingness to sell assets (because of capital gains taxes) can have a negative effect. For instance, investments may be at a higher risk because they are not diversified or the stock in question does not provide suitable income.
ACHIEVE CHARITABLE GOALS WITH A TRUST
If you are charitably inclined, creating a charitable trust may be an option to reduce the low basis stock in your portfolio. The highly appreciated asset is transferred to a trust in which you give yourself an income stream of either a fixed dollar amount per year or fixed percentage based on the value of the assets transferred to the trust. The trust defines whether you will receive the payments for a fixed number of years or for the rest of your life. You also will have the ability to add an additional beneficiary, such as a spouse, to continue to receive the income after your death. At the conclusion of the established term, the assets that remain in the trust will be paid to the charity or charities you have selected.
REBALANCE YOUR PORTFOLIO WITH CHARITABLE TRUST
When the assets are transferred to the trust, the trustee, who you have selected but must be independent, will sell the assets and then invest the funds in a more diversified portfolio. These decisions will take into account the assets transferred, the rate of payment you select, the number of years income payments are to be made, and the number of beneficiaries. In the year you create the trust and the assets are transferred to it, you will receive a charitable deduction on your income tax return based on the value of the transfer, the number of years of the trust, the payout rate and the number of beneficiaries. Your accountant and attorney will work together to maximize the amount of charitable deduction you will be able to take on your income tax return. By making this transfer, you have simultaneously maximized the benefit of a charitable gift while avoiding the payment of capital gains tax on the highly appreciated asset. Finally, you have not given up the benefit you received from the underlying asset as you have converted it in to an income stream for a period of time.
CONSULT YOUR PROFESSIONAL ADVISORS
Obviously, this is a fairly sophisticated planning tool so you will need to determine if it makes sense by discussing it with your trusted professionals. You, along with your trustee, should seek guidance in the establishment of such a trust from your financial advisor, attorneys, and accountant. Many charitable institutions will assist in the creation of such a trust if you are naming them as the ultimate beneficiary. In the right circumstance, using a charitable trust can provide income tax savings by eliminating capital gains and providing a charitable deduction while also allowing you to retain the value of the underlying asset for a period of time. The attorneys at Phelan, Frantz & Ohlig are experienced in all aspects of estate planning, including trusts.
WHAT’S UP WITH NJ ESTATE TAX?
Recent reports out of Trenton suggest that the evolution of the New Jersey estate tax — thought to be complete in January 2018 with the full repeal of the tax — may face further developments. Revelations that the repeal has resulted in a higher drop in state revenue than anticipated have led to calls for reinstatement of the estate tax in some form. The uncertain future of the New Jersey estate tax adds an additional layer of complexity to the estate planning process.
NJ ESTATE TAX ELIMINATED IN 2018
For many years, the estate tax exemption in New Jersey was relatively low. An estate tax was imposed on individuals with net assets in excess of $675,000 at death. Many residents sought to avoid the hit by establishing domicile in a more tax-friendly state, such as Florida, which had the accompanying result of impacting New Jersey’s income tax collections. In 2016, then-Governor Chris Christie and Republican lawmakers introduced a law to phase-out the estate tax. In 2017, the estate tax exemption was increased to $2 million and in 2018 it was eliminated altogether.
IS IT COMING BACK?
While New Jersey still has an inheritance tax which is imposed when someone other than an immediate family member (parent, spouse, child or grandchild) or charity receives an inheritance, lawmakers knew that the fiscal hit would be significant. News issued recently by the Department of Treasury reveals that the hit has been harder and more precipitous than initially believed, however. Analysts predict that estate and inheritance tax collections for 2018 will decline more than $100 million, in large part because of the 2017 bump in the estate tax exemption and the complete elimination of the tax in 2018.
FLEXIBILITY IN YOUR ESTATE PLAN IS ESSENTIAL
Calls for restoration of the estate tax have been coming fast and furious. Whether it will come back and, if it does, whether it will be restored at the $2 million exemption amount or less, remains to be seen. Regardless, it is critical that individuals and families in the process of updating or creating an estate plan include flexibility in their Will to account for the variety of scenarios that may come to fruition. Consultation with a knowledgeable and thoughtful estate planning attorney with experience in New Jersey’s estate tax is an essential part of this process. The attorneys at Phelan, Frantz & Peek are all mindful of this possibility when we discuss planning with our clients.