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Articles From Lumsden McCormick

Dynasty Trusts Are More Valuable than Ever

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) affects more than just income taxes. It's brought great changes to estate planning and, in doing so, bolstered the potential value of dynasty trusts. 

Exemption Changes

Let's start with the TCJA. It doesn't repeal the estate tax, as had been discussed before its passage in December of 2017. The tax was retained in the final version of the law. For the estates of persons dying, and gifts made, after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026, the gift and estate tax exemption and the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption amounts have been increased to an inflation-adjusted $10 million, or $20 million for married couples. (For 2019, these amounts are $11.4 million, or $22.8 million, respectively, for 2018).

Absent further congressional action, the exemptions will revert to their 2017 levels (adjusted for inflation) beginning January 1, 2026. The marginal tax rate for all three taxes remains at 40%.

GST Avoidance

Now let's turn to dynasty trusts. These irrevocable arrangements allow substantial amounts of wealth to grow free of federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes, largely because of their lengthy terms. The specific longevity of a dynasty trust depends on the law of the state in which it's established. Some states allow trusts to last for hundreds of years or even in perpetuity.

Where the TCJA and dynasty trusts come together is in the potential to avoid the GST tax. It levies an additional 40% tax on transfers to grandchildren or others that skip a generation, potentially consuming substantial amounts of wealth. The key to avoiding the tax is to leverage your GST tax exemption, which, under the TCJA, is higher than ever.

Assuming you haven't yet used any of your gift and estate tax exemption, you can transfer $11.4 million to a properly structured dynasty trust. There's no gift tax on the transaction because it's within your unused exemption amount. And the funds, plus future appreciation, are removed from your taxable estate.

Most important, by allocating your GST tax exemption to your trust contributions, you ensure that any future distributions or other transfers of trust assets to your grandchildren or subsequent generations will avoid GST taxes. This is true even if the value of the assets grows well beyond the exemption amount or the exemption is reduced in the future.

Best Interests

Naturally, setting up a dynasty trust is neither simple nor quick. You'll need to choose a structure, allocate assets (such as securities, real estate, life insurance policies, and business interests), and name a trustee. Our firm can work with your attorney to maximize the tax benefits and help ensure the trust is in the best interests of your estate.

Nontax Reasons to Set Up a Dynasty Trust

Regardless of the tax implications, there are valid nontax reasons to set up a dynasty trust. First, you can designate the beneficiaries of the trust assets spanning multiple generations. Typically, you might provide for the assets to follow a line of descendants, such as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. You can also impose certain restrictions, such as limiting access to funds until a beneficiary earns a college degree.

Second, by placing assets in a properly structured trust, those assets can be protected from the reach of a beneficiary's creditors, including claims based on divorce, a failed business or traffic accidents.

 
Dynasty Trusts Are More Valuable than Ever

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Cheryl has extensive experience working with business owners and individuals on minimizing taxes, with a focus on succession planning. With a thoughtful approach, Cheryl helps clients explore their long-term goals and plan accordingly. Leveraging Cheryl’s expertise in this area, the goal is to implement plans that achieve the wishes of the client and provide for tax efficient transitions. Cheryl’s passion for working with corporations and individuals has allowed her to become a trusted business advisor. She has worked with clients not only in the Western New York region but throughout the country. The breadth of this experience has allowed her to collaborate with other professional advisors to ensure that plans are flexible and innovative in the ever-changing world in which we live. Cheryl started her career with the Firm in 1991 and rejoined in 2019 adding additional strength to the tremendous talent of the Lumsden McCormick tax team. 

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