Tuesday, December 20, 2016

(This is an updated post from December 2015)

With the end of the year approaching, we thought now would be a good time to re-post and update this blog from the end of 2015.

For 2017, the annual exclusion gift amount will remain the same at $14,000 but the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption will increase to $5,490,000 (up from 2016’s $5,450,000).

With fourteen days left in the year, many people are still planning how to make 2016 gifts, whether by making “annual exclusion” gifts of $14,000 per beneficiary, or by taking advantage of the 2016 gift tax exemption amount of $5,450,000.  Whatever the reason for the last-minute gifting, as the end of the year approaches, people may be tempted to make a “quick and easy” gift to their beneficiaries by simply writing a check. As the year draws to a close, however, if your gift is dependent on utilizing 2016 tax law, beware of the potential trap of making a gift by check.

A gift is not complete for tax purposes until the gift is no longer revocable.  However, if you write someone a check, until that check clears, you could always “revoke” the check by alerting your bank to stop payment, or by emptying your account of sufficient funds to pay on the check.   Until the check clears the bank, your gift is still revocable.  Therefore, if your beneficiary doesn’t deposit the check in time for the banking system to clear the check, your gift may not be considered irrevocable until 2017, and you have therefore made a gift in 2017 instead of 2016.

If you are planning to make 2016 gifts over the next 10 days by means of a check, be wary and let your beneficiaries know that they need to deposit that check as soon as possible.  Better yet, make the gift by means of a cashier’s check, which is considered irrevocable as soon as you hand it over.  That way, you don’t have to rely on the promptness of your beneficiaries’ next trip to the bank, and the promptness of the banks in processing the checks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

(This is an updated post from December 2015)

Need a New Year’s resolutions to kick start 2017? Here is an idea you probably hadn’t considered: review your estate planning documents.

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking that reading legal documents does not sound like an even remotely enjoyable way to start a new year. But, it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as it sounds. Reviewing your documents does not mean you have to read them cover to cover. If you know what are the most important elements, it is easy to review your will, trust, and powers of attorney regularly to ensure they still comply with your wishes. These documents not only determine who will receive your property when you die, but also likely determine who has the right to make financial and major medical decisions during your lifetime. Needless to say, it is important that you are still comfortable with the designations you have made.

To get you started, below is a basic checklist of items we suggest you review annually (make it a New Year’s tradition!).

1. Assess the changes in your life since you last updated your estate planning documents.

Have you gotten married or divorced? Had a child or adopted a child? Moved to a different state? Had a death in the family? Had a major financial event? Any of these life changes may affect your estate planning, and your documents may need to be revised. (more…)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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While there is considerable uncertainty among wealth planners and tax professionals regarding how the incoming administration will impact the federal tax code, nearly everyone agrees that change is imminent. With that in mind, we have assembled this chart, which compares current tax rates with President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan, and the House Republicans’ Blueprint plan (released in June, 2016).  Click here.

Friday, November 18, 2016
Written by in: Valuation
 

The Section 7520 rate is 1.8%
  AFRs
Annual Semi-annual Quarterly Monthly
Short-term 0.74% 0.74% 0.74% 0.74%
Mid-term 1.47% 1.46% 1.46% 1.46%
Long-term 2.26% 2.25% 2.24% 2.24%
Monday, November 14, 2016

Bryan Cave’s Private Client Group was recently recognized by US News & World Report’s 2017 “Best Law Firms” as a “National Tier 1” practice in the Trusts and Estates category.

best-law-firms

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Originally posted by our employee benefits and compensation team, here.

2017 Qualified Plan Limits Released

Posted: 31 Oct 2016 12:15 PM PDT

The IRS recently released updated limits for retirement plans.  Our summary of those limits (along with the limits from the last few years) is below.

Type of Limitation 2017 2016 2015 2014
Elective Deferrals (401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1)) $18,000 $18,000 $18,000 $17,500
Section 414(v) Catch-Up Deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), or SARSEP Plans (457(b)(3) and 402(g) provide separate catch-up rules to be considered as appropriate) $6,000 $6,000 $6,000 $5,500
SIMPLE 401(k) or regular SIMPLE plans, Catch-Up Deferrals $3,000 $3,000 $3,000 $2,500
415 limit for Defined Benefit Plans $215,000 $210,000 $210,000 $210,000
415 limit for Defined Contribution Plans $54,000 $53,000 $53,000 $52,000
Annual Compensation Limit $270,000 $265,000 $265,000 $260,000
Annual Compensation Limit for Grandfathered Participants in Governmental Plans Which Followed 401(a)(17) Limits (With Indexing) on July 1, 1993 $400,000 $395,000 $395,000 $385,000
Highly Compensated Employee 414(q)(1)(B) $120,000 $120,000 $120,000 $115,000
Key employee in top heavy plan (officer) $175,000 $170,000 $170,000 $170,000
SIMPLE Salary Deferral $12,500 $12,500 $12,500 $12,000
Tax Credit ESOP Maximum balance $1,080,000 $1,070,000 $1,070,000 $1,050,000
Amount for Lengthening of 5-Year ESOP Period $215,000 $210,000 $210,000 $210,000
Taxable Wage Base $127,200 $118,500 $118,500 $117,000
FICA Tax for employees and employers 7.65% 7.65% 7.65% 7.65%
Social Security Tax for employees 6.2% 6.2% 6.2% 6.2%
Social Security Tax for employers 6.2% 6.2% 6.2% 6.2%
Medicare Tax for employers and employees 1.45% 1.45% 1.45% 1.45%
Additional Medicare Tax* .9% of comp >$200,000 .9% of comp >$200,000 .9% of comp > $200,000 .9% of comp > $200,000

*For taxable years beginning after 12/31/12, an employer must withhold Additional Medicare Tax on wages or compensation paid to an employee in excess of $200,000 in a calendar year for single/head of household filing status ($250,000 for married filing jointly).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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The Private Client group of Bryan Cave is proud to announce that Kimberly E. Civins has been elected as a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).

ACTEC is a nonprofit association of lawyers established in 1949 whose pre-eminent members are elected to the College by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence and experience as trust and estate counselors. Membership in ACTEC is by election of the regents of the College. Individual lawyers meeting the criteria for membership are nominated for membership by fellows of the College, and subjected to careful review by state and national membership selection committees, prior to consideration by the regents of the College.

All ACTEC members have made substantial contributions to the field of trusts and estates law through writing, teaching and bar leadership activities. The members work together in a collegial manner to enhance their ability to provide the most efficient and highest quality services to their clients; develop qualified trust and estate counselors; improve and reform probate, trust and tax laws, procedures, and standards of professional responsibility; and cooperate with bar associations and other organizations with similar missions.  For more information about the College, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The 7520 rate for November 2016 has remained at 1.6%.

The November 2016 Applicable Federal Interest Rates can be found here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rev. Proc. 2016-49

The recent issuance of Rev. Proc. 2016-49, which modifies and supersedes Rev. Proc. 2001-38, now puts the taxpayer in the driver’s seat. Recall that in Rev. Proc. 2001-38, the Service was providing relief for the surviving spouse when an unnecessary QTIP election was made, by treating such a QTIP election as though it had not been made. Practitioners began to question whether Rev. Proc. 2001-38 would render a QTIP election a nullity when made in order to qualify for a state marital deduction where such an election was not needed to reduce the Federal estate tax liability to zero. Then when portability came into the picture, the enhanced concern about basis adjustment at death drove practitioners to want to make a QTIP election even though not needed to reduce the estate tax liability, to permit the surviving spouse to make larger gifts that would not be subject to gift tax or solely to obtain a basis adjustment at death. Yet in view of Rev. Proc. 2001-38, it was not clear whether a QTIP election that did not result in a reduction in estate tax was viable.

Now the Service has solved this dilemma with Rev. Proc. 2016-49. A QTIP election will only be void if ALL of the following are satisfied:

  1. The estate did not exceed the applicable exclusion amount in any event so that a QTIP election would not reduce the estate tax liability.
  2. No portability election was effectively made, either because not actually made or because of a late filed return.
  3. The taxpayer notifies the IRS on a supplemental return that such a QTIP election previously made should be treated as void.
  4. The taxpayer provides sufficient evidence, which could consist of the return on which the
    unnecessary QTIP election was made, that the QTIP election was not needed to reduce the estate tax liability to zero based on the values as finally determined for estate tax purposes.

A QTIP election will not be treated as void where ANY of the following are true:

  1. A partial QTIP election was required to eliminate estate tax and the executor made a
    larger QTIP election than was necessary to reduce the estate tax liability to zero.
  2. The QTIP election was stated as a formula designed to reduce the estate tax liability to zero.
  3. The executor made a protection QTIP election.
  4. The executory made a portability election.

The taxpayer did not request that the QTIP election be treated as void and follow the procedure for having the election treated as void.

Monday, October 3, 2016

In a recent Tax Court decision, Harry H. Falk, and Steven P. Heller, Co-Executors, v. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue, the United States Tax Court ruled that in the case of the Madoff Ponzi scheme, an estate which paid estate tax on Madoff assets which subsequently have become worthless can claim a theft deduction.

James Heller, a New York state decedent, died in January 2008 owning a 99% interest in James Heller Family, LLC (the “LLC”).  The only asset held by the LLC was an account with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC.  In November of 2008, the Executors of Mr. Heller’s estate withdrew some money from the LLC’s Madoff account in order to pay estate taxes and other administrative expenses.  Shortly thereafter, the news of the Madoff Ponzi scheme became public. Suddenly, the LLC’s interest and the estate’s interest in the LLC became worthless.

In April 2009, the Executors of the Estate filed an estate tax return which included the decedent’s 99% interest in the LLC – as valued at the date of his death – in his gross estate.  But the estate also claimed a theft loss deduction relating to the Ponzi scheme in an amount equal to the difference between the values of the estate’s interest in the LLC at death and the estate’s share of the amount withdrawn from the LLC’s Madoff account.  The Internal Revenue Service issued a notice of deficiency, claiming the estate was not entitled to the theft loss deduction because the estate did not incur a theft loss.

Internal Revenue Code Section 2054 allows a deduction from the value of a gross estate of “losses incurred during the settlement of estates arising from…theft.”  The Internal Revenue Service argued that the LLC incurred the loss, not the estate, and as such the theft deduction is not appropriate.  However, the Court determined that the loss suffered by the estate related directly to its LLC interest, the worthlessness of which arose from the theft.  The theft extinguished the value of the estate’s LLC interest, thereby diminishing the value of the property available to the decedent’s heirs.  As such, the Court determined a theft deduction appropriate.