Estate Planning Blog Articles

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What’s Is the Best Way to Give to Charity?

Charitable giving plays a valuable role in estate and tax planning. A well-planned donation can also provide a healthy income tax deduction, along with a reduction of estate taxes. Your generous donation could help to maintain financial security, exert control over assets during life and after death and provide for heirs, as explained in a recent article titled “Charitable giving good for heart, 1040” from the Valdosta Daily Times.

To accomplish any of these objectives, you’ll want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help tailor an estate plan to your individual circumstances. Here are some strategies to consider.

Gifts of appreciated property might allow you to avoid capital gains tax owed when the asset is sold and, if planned properly, might allow you to receive an income tax deduction, usually worth the fair market value of the asset.

Removing any assets from your estate reduces the potential estate tax liability.

If you want to make a donation to a charity but you’d like to maintain some control over it, a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) might be a good fit. A CRT works best when funded by an appreciated asset, such as real estate or stock in a family owned business.

Once the property is transferred to the CRT, the CRT can sell the appreciated assets it holds without paying capital gains taxes. It then continues to provide income generated by the CRT to the beneficiaries for a period of time, as instructed by the CRT. At the end of this period, the remainder of the CRT is donated to the charity. You avoid capital gains on the assets you donated, an income stream and you also receive a tax deduction.

Another strategy is to use a Charitable Lead Trust or CLT. With a CLT, you give the charity the use of the asset and the right to any income generated for a predetermined time. When the time period ends, the asset reverts to you or is given to whoever you designate in the CLT. Appropriate assets for a CLT could be income-producing stocks and bonds, a valued collection or a painting transferred to a museum for a certain period of time.

You likely receive a current income tax deduction for the value to the charity. However, you receive no other direct benefit during the term. If a CLT is created upon your death, estate tax liability could be reduced.

Early tax planning can help make the most of any charitable giving opportunities and let you take full advantage of any additional benefits. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to receive guidance appropriate to your unique situation.

Reference: Valdosta Daily Times (Dec. 4, 2022)  “Charitable giving good for heart, 1040”

How to Prepare for Higher Taxes

Taxing the appreciation of property on gifting or at death as capital gains or ordinary income is under scrutiny as a means of raising significant revenue for the federal government. The Biden administration has proposed this but proposing and passing into law are two very different things, observes Financial Advisor in the article “How Rich Clients Should Prepare For A Biden Estate Tax Regime.”

The tax hikes are being considered as a means of paying for the American Jobs Act and the American Families Act. Paired with the COVID-19 relief bill, the government will need a total of $6.4 trillion over the course of a decade to cover those costs. Reportedly, both Republicans and Democrats are pushing back on this proposal.

A step-up in basis recalculates the value of appreciated assets for tax purposes when they are inherited, which is when the asset’s value usually is higher than when it was originally purchased. For the beneficiary, the step-up in basis at the death of the original owner reduces the capital gains tax on the asset. Taxes are reduced significantly, or in some cases, completely eliminated.

For now, taxpayers pay an estate tax on the value of the assets and the basis of appreciated assets is stepped up to fair market value. The plan under consideration would treat appreciated assets owned at the time of death as sold, which would trigger income tax and subject those assets to estate tax.

Biden’s proposal would also subject many families to the estate tax, which they would not otherwise face, since the federal estate tax exclusion is still historically high—$11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for married couples. Let’s say a widowed mother dies with a $3 million estate. Most of the value of the estate is the home she lived in with her spouse for the last four decades. Her estate would not owe any federal tax, but the deemed sale of a highly appreciated home would generate income tax liability.

The proposal allows a $1 million per individual and $2 million per married couple exclusion from gain recognition on property transferred by gift or owned at death. The $1 million per person exclusion is in addition to exclusions for property transfers of tangible personal property, transfers to a spouse, transfers to charity, capital gains on certain business stock and the current exclusion of $250,000 for capital gain on a personal residence.

How should people prepare for what sounds like an unsettling proposal but may end up at a completely different place?

For some, the right move is transferring properties now, if it makes sense with their overall estate plan. Regardless of what Congress does with this proposal, the estate tax exemption will sunset to just north of $5 million (due to inflation adjustments) from the current $11.7 million. However, the likelihood of the proposal passing in its present state is low. The best option may be to make any revisions focused on the change to the estate tax exemption levels.

Reference: Financial Advisor (June 28, 2021) “How Rich Clients Should Prepare For A Biden Estate Tax Regime”

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