What Is a Marital Trust?

Clients use marital trusts for multiple benefits in their estate plans, including asset allocation, planning for blended families, creditor protection and tax benefits.  If you are married, marital trusts are worth considering in your estate plan.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Guide To Marital Trusts” says that a marital trust is an irrevocable trust that allows you to transfer a deceased spouse’s assets to the surviving spouse at death in a tax efficient manner.  When the surviving spouse dies, the assets in the trust aren’t necessarily part of their estate. That may keep the taxes on their estate lower.

A marital trust is created by one spouse in their trust or wife, and it holds property for the benefit of the surviving spouse.  The trustee of the marital trust can be the surviving spouse, or another person chosen by the creator.

All of the income of the trust is paid to the spouse during their lifetime.  This basically means if the trust is producing money such as dividends, rent and so on, it pays out to the surviving spouse.  This is often a good way to provide an income stream for the surviving spouse without giving them unfettered access to all of the assets.

At the death of the surviving spouse, the remaining trust property can go to the beneficiaries the first spouse designated.  This is especially helpful in blended families where one spouse wants to provide for their spouse, but wants what remains to go to their children.

The trust may also protect assets from creditors and future spouses that the surviving spouse may encounter. It accomplishes this by keeping the assets within the trust and prevents them from freely being taken out by a creditor or predator.

If keeping wealth within your family after you die is important, then a marital trust is an estate planning tool that may help

Reference: Forbes (June 30, 2022) “Guide To Marital Trusts”

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Update on Estate and Gift Taxes for 2022

There was a lot of discussion last year about potential changes to the federal estate and gift tax laws.  It’s possible that some of these proposals may be enacted in 2022, but for now, none of them have passed.  In the meantime, exemptions have increased for inflation, giving taxpayers a chance to lock in rates and exemptions before the federal estate tax sunsets to $5 million and some “change” for inflation. You can see a fuller explanation in the recent article, 2022 Transfer Tax Update,” from Forbes.

For now, the increased estate and gift tax exemptions are:

  • In 2022, $12,060,000 federal estate tax exemption, with a 40% top federal estate tax rate.
  • $12,060,000 GST tax exemption and a 40% top federal GST tax rate.
  • The lifetime gift tax exemption is now $12,060,000; with a 40% top federal gift tax rate.
  • The annual gift tax exclusion for 2022 increases to $16,000.

The IRS and the Treasury Department have both stated they will not attempt any claw-backs from gifts given between 2018—2025 for a taxpayer who dies in 2026 or beyond, when the exemptions return to the $5 million mark under the 2012 Act.

The opportunity to take advantage of these exemptions is now. A variety of estate planning techniques are still available to address estate and gift tax. Shifting income-producing assets to individuals in lower income tax brackets or who live in states with no or lower income taxes may be appropriate.  It might make sense to make substantial gifts in 2022, but that will be a case by case analysis.  You can see this past article discussing that more, although it should be tempered by the current tax picture: https://www.galliganmanning.com/gifting-and-estate-taxes/  

Does this mean your estate plan needs to be revised? If you’re like most people, your estate plan is relatively flexible. However, if you haven’t reviewed or revised your estate plan in two or three years, it’s time to make an appointment with your estate planning attorney. There have been many changes in the law in recent years, and chances are, changes in your life since the last time your plan was reviewed.

The GST tax is not portable on the death of a spouse. Certain states (including New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) don’t permit estate tax exemption portability. A bypass trust may be the solution.

The gift tax annual exclusion amount has increased to $16,000 for individuals ($32,000 by married couples). It may be better to gift securities of interests in privately held companies or other family entities. Assets gifted now may be worth less than they were previously, and if they increase in the future, you’ve created a built-in discount.

Talk with your estate planning attorney to make the most out of these tax situations before they go away.

Reference: Forbes (Jan. 4, 2022) 2022 Transfer Tax Update”

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