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Entries in tax planning (3)

Wednesday
Jun202012

Tax & Estate Planning - Small Win for Same Sex Couples?

Trusts & Estate Planning

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

 

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was enacted in 1996 to "define and protect the institution of marriage." It defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman – and defined spouse as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.

The Act also says that states, territories, possessions or Indian tribes of the U.S. are not required to recognize public acts and judicial proceedings regarding relationships between persons of the same sex that occur within other states, territories or tribes.

These definitions and directives have been under fire for a long time, but recently, a district court in New York ruled parts of DOMA unconstitutional.

In Edith Schlain Windsor v. The United States of America, the question revolves around tax obligations for estates passing to same-sex spouses.

 

Trust and Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples Under DOMA

 

For context: Windsor and Thea Spyer met in 1963, entered into a committed relationship and lived together. In 1993, Windsor and Spyer registered as domestic partners in New York. They married in Canada in 2007.

Spyer's estate passed to Windsor in 2009 when she died. But Windsor paid over $350k in taxes on the estate because under DOMA, she did not qualify for an unlimited marital deduction.

Windsor sought a refund, claiming DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution of the United States' Fifth Amendment. Windsor had to prove that:

  1. She suffered an "injury in fact," in this case, her interests were legally unprotected;
  2. There was a causal connection between the injury and the Defendant's actions, not between the injury and a third party; and,
  3. It is "likely" the injury will be remedied with a favorable decision

The defense, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. House of Representatives, alleged among other things, that Windsor did not meet the second condition. The group claimed that the State of New York did not recognize Windsor's marriage to Spyer in the year that Spyer died. Defense cited the 2006 decision Hernandez v. Robles, which said "New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex."

The District Court disagreed. According to Justice Barbara S. Jones:

In 2009, all three statewide elected executive officials – the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Comptroller – had endorsed the recognition of Windsor's marriage [Justice Jones cited two other court decisions, Godfrey v. Spano, and Dickerson v. Thompson]. In addition, every New York State appellate court to have addressed the issues in the years following Hernandez has upheld the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

There were other claims and defenses made. But the Court granted summary judgment for Windsor, and declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in this case. Though a victory for Windsor and same-sex couples for the moment, we can only wait and see what happens next.

Kira S. Masteller is a Trust & Estate Planning and Probate Attorney. If you have questions about your own estate planning, contact her at kmasteller@lewitthackman.com .

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Steve Jobs Estate Taxes – Which Way is “Up” for the Jobs Family and for You?

 

by Robert A. Hull

As the world mourns the loss of innovative tech giant Steve Jobs, we learn he may have left his wife, Laurene, and family up to $6.78 billion dollars in Disney and Apple stock.

He also left his family in a quandary not of his own making, namely, how to negotiate financial pitfalls while traveling on uncertain terrain.

Unfortunately, with the recent failure of the so-called congressional Super Committee to address tax and spending reform, the “Bush tax cuts” are set to expire in 2013.

Capital Gains Tax Legislation: As it Stands Now

 

If there are no further changes in the law:

▪ The current 15 percent capital gains tax rate is set to rise to 20 percent,
▪ Income tax rates are due to increase,
▪ The current $5 million gift/estate tax exemption will return to a $1 million exemption.

The key takeaway is “absent further legislation”, i.e., no one knows what the law will be in 2013.

At least as far as the Jobs family is concerned, if they sell the stock before 2013, and (here’s the kicker) if indeed the Bush tax cuts lapse, the Jobs family may avoid almost hundreds of millions in capital gains tax they would have to pay at the higher 20 percent rate if they sold after 2013.

The great news is that the beneficiaries of Steve Jobs’ stock will receive an automatic step-up in basis of the stock to the value of such stock on Jobs’ date of death (including a step-up on Laurene’s ½ community property interest in such stock) – i.e., they will receive the benefit of the increase in the stock’s value since acquisition, tax free. However, any further increases (after Jobs’ death) in the value of the stock interest Jobs’ passed to his heirs will be subject to capital gains when the stock is sold.

So, there’s a capital gains tax of 15 percent or ‘possibly’ 20 percent, which prompt some questions:

1. How are individuals and businesses supposed to make certain financial decisions in the face of such uncertainty?

2. And, how are financial and estate planning professionals supposed to give sage advice and counsel when none of them know what the law will be in 14 months?

Steve Jobs’ Estate Taxes: Looking Up

 

The answer to both questions above is that effective planning in such uncertain times is a challenge. Obviously, if considerations other than tax consequences are paramount, then those business decisions may take care of themselves.

If the Jobs family wishes to retain Steve Jobs’ control of Apple, for example, they might hold on to the stock, risking a higher tax in the future if Congress does nothing or increases capital gains.

But, if the tax consequences are the most important consideration (hey, who really wants to give the government $876 million?) they may wish to sell the stock. But, the Jobs family will be divesting themselves of Steve Jobs’ legacy.

Tax and Estate Planning for Your Family

 

Many of you may be facing similar questions, though not on the scale of the Jobs family: To sell or not to sell? To gift or not to gift? For example, do you as parents and owners of a family business utilize the current $5 million gift tax exemption to gift portions of the family business to your children, even though you may prefer to do so in a few years?

If you do so before 2013, you can pass along $5 million of business value tax-free. If not, you risk having to pay gift tax on the portion of the business you pass which is worth over $1 million. . . unless Congress takes some other action, of course.

Given our government’s penchant for last minute deal-making, short-term fixes, and for striking bargains that are difficult to predict (like a “default” return to a $1 million exemption in 2013 absent further action), it may not be prudent to wait till the last minute to make these financial decisions.

Some decisions take time and fit into a family’s overall strategy (e.g., making gifts of minority interests in a family business or property, over time) and you may not have the necessary time to effectuate such a strategy or sell the stock before the new law goes into effect.

So, which way is up? And, where does this leave us all?

It leaves us in the same boat we’ve been in longer than any of us care to imagine – making life-altering financial decisions based on less information than we wish we had. However, it is nonetheless helpful to have a first mate on this trip, a professional who can help you best negotiate the rocks and reefs which may be lying just below the surface.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Tuesday
Oct112011

Maximizing Your Annual Gift | Tax Free Gift Exemption

Trusts & Estate Planning Attorney

 

by Kira S. Masteller
818.907.3244

 

If your estate is valued over the Federal estate tax exemption ($5,000,000 in 2011 and 2012 and returning to $1,000,000 in 2013), you should consider making annual gifts to your family now so that those assets that would be received by the family anyway, will NOT be exposed to unnecessary estate taxes .

 

Your estate includes your:

▪ real estate,
▪ bank accounts,
▪ investments accounts,
▪ retirement assets,
life insurance,
▪ personal property, and
▪ all other assets

Annual Gifts that Don’t Keep on Giving (to the Government)

 

You are allowed to give $13,000 to as many individuals as you desire each year prior to December 31st without having to report the gift to the IRS, and a gift of $13,000 or under will not reduce your lifetime Gift Tax Exemption (presently $5,000,000; scheduled to return to $1,000,000 in 2013).

This means that you can give your son $13,000, his wife $13,000, and each of his three children $13,000 so that you have removed $65,000 that would be taxed at a rate of 35 percent (in 2011-2012; may return to 45 percent in 2013) if you left it in your estate and paid estate tax upon your death.

You can also directly pay tuition for students (your children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren), and health care expenses without affecting your lifetime Gift Tax Exemption. This is another way to help your family and reduce your exposure to Federal estate tax at the same time.

Of course when you have less assets in your estate, you may earn less income. This is something to consider prior to making gifts. Alternatively, if you are paying excessive income taxes, by reducing your income annually, you will pay less income tax annually.

If you have any questions regarding making annual gifts, you should contact your estate planning attorney or accountant to determine whether or not you should plan to make annual gifts to reduce the value of your estate.

Kira S. Masteller is a California Trust Attorney in our Trusts and Estate Planning Practice Group. For more information, call Ms. Masteller at 818.990.2120.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

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