If charitable giving is part of your estate plan, consider a donor-advised fund
Do you make sizable gifts to charitable causes? If you’re fortunate enough to afford it, you can realize personal rewards from your generosity and may be able to claim a deduction on your tax return. But once you turn over the money or assets, you generally have no further say on how they’re used. You can exercise greater control over your charitable endeavors using a donor-advised fund (DAF). Bear in mind that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you must itemize to benefit from the charitable contributions deduction.
Setting up a DAF
As the name implies, your recommendations are integral to a DAF. First, you contribute to a fund typically managed by an independent sponsoring organization or an arm of a reputable financial institution. The minimum contribution generally is $5,000. In exchange for handling the management of the fund, the financial institution or organization usually charges an administrative fee based on a percentage of the deposit.
Next, you make recommendations as to how the DAF should distribute the assets to your favorite charities. Though technically you no longer have control of the money that has been contributed, the fund administrator will generally follow your advice. While you’re deciding which charities to support, your contribution is invested and grows tax-free. Then, your charitable choices are vetted by the organization to ensure that the recipients are qualified charitable organizations. Finally, the administrator cuts the checks and the funds are distributed to the charities.
DAF pros and cons
The advantages of using a DAF include an immediate tax deduction. Your contribution to the DAF is deductible in the tax year in which the initial contribution is made. You don’t have to wait until the fund makes distributions to the designated recipient. In addition, if you contribute appreciated property such as securities, there’s no capital gains tax on the appreciation in value. It remains untaxed forever. Moreover, contributions to a DAF aren’t subject to estate tax or the probate process, and the amounts contributed to the fund are invested and can grow without any tax erosion.
Conversely, despite some misconceptions, contributors to DAFs have effectively no control over how the money is spent once it’s disbursed to charities. Donors can’t benefit personally. For instance, you can’t direct that the money be used to buy tickets to a local fundraiser. In addition, detractors have complained about high administrative fees.
If you believe a DAF is the right charitable funding vehicle for you, be sure to shop around. Fund requirements — such as minimum contributions, minimum grant amounts and investment options — vary from fund to fund, as do the fees they charge. Contact us to help you find a fund that meets your needs.
Only certain trusts can own S corporation stock
S corporations must comply with several strict requirements or risk losing their tax-advantaged status. Among other things, they can have no more than 100 shareholders, can have no more than one class of stock and are permitted to have only certain types of shareholders.
In an estate planning context, it’s critical that any trusts that will receive S corporation stock through operation of your estate plan be eligible shareholders.
Which trusts are eligible?
Eligible trusts include:
Grantor trusts. A grantor trust is eligible provided that it has one “deemed owner” who’s a U.S. citizen or resident and meets certain other requirements. Also, when the grantor dies, the trust remains an eligible shareholder for two years, after which it must distribute the stock to an eligible shareholder or qualify as a qualified subchapter S trust (QSST) or an electing small business trust (ESBT).
Testamentary trusts. These trusts, which are established by your will, are eligible S corporation shareholders for up to two years after the transfer and then must either distribute the stock to an eligible shareholder or qualify as a QSST or ESBT.
QSSTs. These trusts must meet several requirements, including distributing all current income to a single beneficiary who’s a U.S. citizen or resident and filing an election with the IRS. They cannot be used to benefit multiple beneficiaries or to accumulate income, although in effect there can be multiple beneficiaries if they’re treated as each owning a separate share of the trust. A QSST’s income is taxed at the beneficiary’s tax rate.
ESBTs. A trust qualifies as an ESBT if 1) all of its beneficiaries or “potential current beneficiaries” would be eligible shareholders if they held the stock directly, 2) no beneficiary purchases its interest and 3) the trustee files an election with the IRS.
If you have any S corporation stock that will be distributed to a trust, be sure to review its terms carefully to ensure it couldn’t inadvertently disqualify the S corporation. Contact us with further questions.
Life insurance can be a powerful estate planning tool for nontaxable estates
For years, life insurance has played a critical role in estate planning, providing a source of liquidity to pay estate taxes and other expenses. It’s been particularly valuable for business owners, whose families might not have the liquid assets they need to pay estate taxes without selling the business
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the estate tax exemption has climbed to an inflation-adjusted $10 million through 2025 (projected to be just over $11 million for 2018). Even before the increase, federal estate taxes weren’t a concern for the vast majority of families, and now even fewer families are at risk. But even for nontaxable estates, life insurance continues to offer significant estate planning benefits.
Replacing income and wealth
If you die unexpectedly, life insurance can protect your family by replacing your lost income. It can also be used to replace wealth in a variety of contexts. For example, suppose you own highly appreciated real estate or other assets and wish to dispose of them without generating current capital gains tax liability. One option is to contribute the assets to a charitable remainder trust (CRT).
As a tax-exempt entity, the CRT can sell the assets and reinvest the proceeds without triggering capital gains tax. In addition, you can enjoy an income stream and charitable income tax deductions. Typically, distributions you receive from the CRT are treated as a combination of ordinary taxable income, capital gains, tax-exempt income and tax-free return of principal.
After the end of the CRT's term (which can be a specific number of years, your lifetime or even the joint lifetimes of you and your spouse), the remaining trust assets pass to charity, reducing the amount of wealth available to your children or other heirs. But you can use life insurance to replace that lost wealth.
You can also use life insurance to replace wealth that’s lost to long term care (LTC) expenses, such as nursing home costs. Although LTC insurance is available, it can be expensive, especially if you’re already beyond retirement age.
For many people, a better option is to use personal savings and investments to fund their LTC needs and to purchase life insurance to replace the money that’s spent on such care. One advantage of this approach is that, if you don’t need LTC, your heirs will enjoy a windfall.
Finding the right policy
These are just a few examples of the many benefits provided by life insurance. We can help you determine which type of life insurance policy is right for your situation.