What are Death Taxes?

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What are death taxes?  That is a very common question that I get in my Estate Planning practice.  Death taxes are commonly also called the Estate Tax.  This is the only tax that happens only when you die.  There are other taxes that might occur when you die like the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax, but that tax can also apply during life.  So the death tax is generally the estate tax.

The tax can apply to everything you own at death.  This also includes the death benefit of life insurance policies and anything that you gave away within three years of your death.  The death tax doesn’t affect many people at all.

The Federal Estate tax only starts to apply once you get over roughly $11 million in assets.  That doesn’t affect most families. The Minnesota Estate tax will soon only affect those with over $3 million in assets. That could affect more people. Especially if you die just before retirement.  The value of retirement accounts, a nearly paid off home, and life insurance proceeds can creep up into that amount easily.

There are many things that you can do to plan for the tax.  You can also take steps to make your life insurance not count.  If you want to know more about this, then schedule a planning session with me and I’ll gladly go over your situation.

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Does your trust have to pay Minnesota state income tax?

The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down its decision in Fielding v. MacDonaald et al.  The decision rendered the statute that determines when a trust is taxed as a resident to the state unconstitutional as it applies to many different trusts.  Previously, Minnesota would tax a trust as a resident perpetually if the Grantor was a Minnesota resident at the time it became irrevocable (among other times).  This raised the question of whether this tie to the grantor was constitutional for due process reasons.

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Getting the Most Out of The New Pass-thru Business Tax Deduction

  • Trusts can also get a 20% Qualified Business Income Deduction
  • Trusts will likely also get their own SALT deduction
  • This can cause more deduction to be had overall
  • Planning for asset protection and business succession including trusts, now also benefits client’s income tax planning
  • Clients should consider using trusts to get the most out of these deductions and to create the best value plans

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Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform…Still a good idea? What are the implications for your family if you don’t spend all the money?

Twenty years ago, the Roth IRA first became available to investors as a financial tool for their estate planning needs. These accounts have maintained their popularity because unlike their traditional IRA counterpart, a Roth IRA provides account owners tax-free income during retirement.

In fact, many people chose to convert their traditional IRA or 401(k) plan into a Roth IRA to benefit from this long-term tax advantage. (Of course, there is a current tax bill that has to be considered when you make a conversion.) The recently enacted tax reform, however, has removed one helpful opportunity: the ability to recharacterize — or undo — a Roth IRA conversion.

You can think of these recharacterizations as a second-look at whether the conversion made financial sense. For example, Kevin decides to convert a $100,000 traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. When Kevin does this, he has to pay income tax on the $100,000 now. This isn’t as bad of a deal as it sounds, because now the money is in a Roth IRA, where eventually all of the withdrawals will be tax free. When Kevin retires, he’ll have “tax-free” income from the Roth IRA instead of having to pay income tax on each withdrawal if it were still in the traditional IRA. In the past, if the market were to decline to say $90,000, Kevin could recharacterize — or undo — the conversion. This is important because he had to pay income tax on the full $100,000 of the conversion, but assets have declined in value only $90,000. So, Kevin would be paying income tax on a “phantom” $10,000 IRA conversion. Now, this second-look that a recharacterization offered is closed, so a Roth IRA conversion is just a little riskier than is used to be.

Implications For Loved Ones

Many people who create IRAs, and the ones who inherit them, are unfamiliar with the rules that apply to them. There are several basic scenarios that will result in different consequences for your loved ones in the event you pass away and leave behind an IRA.

First, if you die before spending all the money in your IRA you can leave the retirement account to your surviving children, grandchildren, or other beneficiary you have designated in your estate plan.

Second, the type of IRA — in other words, whether it is a traditional IRA versus a Roth IRA — is important as it vastly affects the amount of benefit your loved ones will receive. For example, when you leave behind a traditional IRA your family will pay income taxes on the money they withdraw when it is taken out of the account. On the other hand, if you leave behind a Roth IRA the money will be income tax-free for your family. Although both types of accounts are subject to the estate tax (or death tax), the death tax is likely a non-issue for most people now, as the federal estate exemption is presently over $11 million per person.

Third, you can create an IRA trust as part of your comprehensive estate plan. An IRA trust is special trust that is purposefully designed to receive IRA distributions for the benefit of your loved ones after you die. This powerful tool maximizes the benefit to your family upon your passing and can be used for both traditional or Roth IRAs. So, whether you decide to convert or not, you still need to consider an IRA trust.

Finally, although tax reformed altered the flexibility of IRA conversions by removing the ability to undo them with a recharacterization, a conversion may still be a good financial planning option for some. As you work with your financial and tax advisors on your conversions, consider your beneficiary designations and whether an IRA trust might be right for you.

Contact an Estate Planning Professional

There are several factors that should be considered when choosing financial and estate planning tools. Always work with a knowledgeable financial and tax professional. Then, work with us, as your estate planning professional, so we can achieve your goals and maximize the benefit to your loved ones.

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What Happens to Your Student Loan Debt When You Die

 

There are two issues many people prefer to avoid thinking about: death and debt. Unfortunately, both of these seems to be inevitable. Student loan debt is a part of life nowadays, particular for students obtaining advanced or professional degrees. As of 2017, the total national student debt is now over $1.4 trillion with college students graduating with an average of $17,126 in debt for their degree. Students are not alone in their debt load.  Approximately $81 billion of the debt is in Parent PLUS loans.

So what happens to your student loan debt when you die? Below are the different types of loans and what happens to the debt in the event the borrower passes away. Although it may not be a pleasant topic, it is imperative that you consider your debt as you work on your financial and estate plans.

Types of Student Loans

  • Federal student loans. If the debt is a federally backed education loan that the student took on by him or herself, then the loan is automatically canceled when the student dies, and the government discharges the debt. These loans have no cosigner, and the legal terms that govern the loans specify that the debt is canceled upon the death of the student.
  • Private student loans. Whether a private student loan is canceled after the borrower’s death depends on the specific lender’s policies and the loan’s legal documents. Check with the lender to find out if they offer any death discharge protection. Some, but not all, private lenders provide this protection to their borrowers.
  • Refinanced student loans. When you refinance your student loan debt, the terms of your old loan are replaced by new terms you agree to when you sign the refinancing documents. While there may be some financial benefits to refinancing your student loans, the terms of your new loan and policies of your new lender will now control your loans. You may lose death discharge protection if you had it in your original loan but it is not present in the new ones.
  • Parent PLUS loans. When a parent takes out a PLUS loan to help pay for a child’s education, and either the parent (borrower) or the child (student) later dies, the federal government will forgive the debt. However, if the student dies, the borrower may receive a 1099-C form, which treats the wiped-out debt as taxable income. As is the case with all tax issues, you should discuss your situation with a qualified tax advisor.
  • Cosigned student loans. If you have a cosigned student loan and the primary borrower passes away, you are still on the hook for the debt. As the cosigner, if you die, the primary borrower may be required to pay the entire balance of the student loan in full. In this event, it is essential that the primary borrower check the lending agreement and discuss the situation with the lender to see what relief, if any may be available.

Seek Professional Advice

If you or someone you know has student loan debt, make sure to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your loans are taken into account when preparing your will or trust. Depending on the type of student loan you have, your estate may or may not be burdened with your debt after you pass away. Factoring in your loans when designing your plan helps ensure that your family is completely protected. Give us a call today to see how we can help.

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