What is the “Death Tax”? Don’t let it scare you!

Who Pays Estate or “Death” Tax?

Don’t be afraid! One of the first questions we get asked when discussing estates and probates is, “Will my loved ones pay ‘death’ or inheritance tax after I die?”

The short answer. Probably not.

The estate tax—a.k.a. the “death” tax to those who want it repealed—is a federal tax on assets (including cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets) upon one’s death.

In 2017, anyone who died leaving an estate larger than $5.49 million paid 40 cents on the dollar for every dollar over $5.49 million. As you can imagine, this is an unpleasant conversation to have with people.

After the new tax plan passed in 2018, the estate tax exempt amount jumped to $11.2 million per person.

Unlimited amounts pass between spouses. The $11.2 million amount applies to beneficiaries like children or grandchildren.

According to a 2015 report from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, 4,700 estate tax returns reporting tax liability were filed in 2013, out of 2.6 million deaths in the United States. That’s around 0.2 percent of Americans, or roughly two out of every 1,000 people who die.

And once the tax bill passed, the studies estimate that around 1,800 estates will be affected this year.

Estates Often Pay Less Than 17%  in Taxes — Not Top Rate of 40%

The top statutory rate is 40 percent, however the effective tax rate— or what the estates actually paid—was less than 17 percent in 2017, according to the Tax Policy Center.

If the tax rate is 40 percent, how is it estates pay less than 17%? Here are reasons:

  • Remember, estates only owe taxes on the amount above the exempted amount, which, again, is $11.2 million in 2018.
  • There are plenty of deductions and loopholes thrifty accountants and lawyers can use.
  • GRATs (grantor retained annuity trust) – a type of trust created to transfer assets tax-free.  We recently implemented a plan involving a GRAT for a client.  The estate owner put money into a trust designed to repay the estate the initial amount, plus interest at a rate set by the Treasury, typically over two years. If the investment — typically stock — rises in value any more than the Treasury rate, the gain goes to an heir tax-free. If the investment doesn’t rise in value, the full amount still goes back to the estate.

State Inheritance Tax – Texas Doesn’t Have It

Some states have state inheritance taxes. Luckily, Texas has no such tax. Below is a handy guide to your state’s inheritance tax.

Inherited Retirement Account Taxes – Some Apply

If you inherit a 401(k) or IRA, you may be taxed on any distributions and you may pay the capital gains tax on the gains if you inherit stocks or real estate and sell them.

Gift Taxes – Give Away $15,000 Tax-free To You

Finally, individuals are allowed to give away $15,000 per year (in cash, stocks, cars, etc.) without being taxed, and that’s $15,000 per donee. So if you have three kids, you can gift each of them $15,000 per year, for a total of $45,000. If you give more than that amount, you will need to file a gift tax return so you aren’t taxed on the excess amount.

Again, if you’re gifted stocks, know that you’ll pay taxes on the gains should you sell them.

Tax Attorney Could Help Cut Taxes On A Large Estate 

If you’re likely to inherit (or give away) a sizable estate, you should meet with a tax attorney to figure out how everything will go down in your state.

You can afford it, after all.

Come see the Weaver Firm Attorneys today to discuss estate taxation issues and planning techniques.

Rick Weaver, Attorney  or Travis Weaver, Attorney

Office: 817.638.9016 

Email: RWeaver@WeaverLegal.net

Email: TWeaver@WeaverLegal.net

5 Retiree Tax Updates from New Tax Laws

As a retiree, you deserve an easy-going, good life. Managing your retirement income  and understanding how the $1.2 trillion tax overhaul signed into law by President Trump may affect your retirement funds is important.  To save us all from boredom, we’ll stick to the five most important items of note (in our opinion).

These changes would be for next year’s taxes, to be filed in 2019. Tax returns for 2017 tax returns are due on April 17 . . .unless you extend.

5 Retiree Tax Updates Resulting From New Tax Law

Retirees will have to be more strategic about their IRA conversions

The new tax bill would stop what’s called “recharacterizations” of IRAs. Recharacterizations allow a person to undo their decision to rollover or convert accounts to Roth IRAs. Therefore, retirement savers who have already made these conversions this year should consider before the new year if they want to reverse them.

Check out this calculator to see if you’ll owe more or less next year: The Trump calculator — will you pay more or less?

And contribute to charity twice every two years

Retirees likely won’t be itemizing since they don’t have many deductions, except for charitable contributions, property taxes and perhaps state income taxes.

Some retirees may want to take advantage of Qualified Charitable Distributions, which allow them to donate directly to charity from their individual retirement accounts without having to itemize those donations (after 70 ½ years old). Because of the increase in the standard deduction, retirees may benefit from making more charitable donations, but less frequently — for example, donate twice as much, but every other year — which would help taxpayers by having more to write off than the standard deduction limit.

Personal income tax rates are changing, but still important

Personal income taxes would be lowered for most households — to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. Retirees will have to watch their income to avoid ending up in a higher tax bracket. Income includes withdrawals from retirement accounts, required minimum distributions and ordinary income. For example, people with large balances might want to begin distributions before turning 70 ½ years old, when they’ll be required to take distributions in some accounts — that way, when they get there, they won’t be forced into a higher tax bracket.

It takes a little calculating, and predicting what income will look like in the future versus now, but it could save retirees money down the road.

Small businesses may not offer retirement accounts

Most 401(k) plans and similar defined contribution benefits are offered by large employers because they’re too expensive for small businesses to administer. Under tax reform, it may become even less advantageous for small businesses to host these accounts.

The bill reduces the income tax rate for small businesses but does not address offering or contributing to retirement plans, which are incentives to establish these accounts, according to the American Retirement Association.

Some retirees may want to move

Deductions for mortgage interest rates were left untouched, and $10,000 in local property taxes will be deductible on a federal level. That means income tax-free states will be best for retirees. Retirees are more easily able to move from state to state because they have no job tying them down, he said, which also means they can be more sensitive to the various income tax rates in various states. There are a few states that soar above the rest for tax-friendly states best for retirees, such as Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The new bill also reduces the maximum amount of mortgage debt a person can acquire for their first or second residence, to $750,000 for married couples filing joint tax returns (or $375,000) for those married filing separately, down from $1 million. This won’t affect home purchases before Dec. 16, 2017 so long as the home closed before April 1, 2018.

If you have questions about the tax plan or about estate planning in general, give us a call at 817.638.9016.

Ten Things to Think About Before Creating Your Estate Plan

Haven’t given much thought to estate planning and charitable giving? You aren’t alone. Over 60% of people don’t have Last Wills and Testaments.  Here are 10 questions to jumpstart your thinking(thanks to Marketwatch for the great article):

1. Can you afford to give away money now? You shouldn’t gift large sums to your children or charity unless you’re confident you have enough for your own retirement. There’s no limit on gifts to charity, though your annual tax deduction may be capped. For gifts to family members, you might take advantage of the annual gift-tax exclusion, currently $15,000 as of January, 2018.

2. Do you have the right beneficiaries listed on your retirement accounts and life insurance? Your individual retirement account and employer’s retirement plan might hold the bulk of your savings, so it’s crucial these accounts pass to the correct people. Unless you want your ex-spouse inheriting from you, probably a good idea to remove his or her name from the beneficiary designation.

3. At the end of your life, who do you want to make medical decisions on your behalf and how far would you like doctors to go in attempting to prolong your life? You should make these wishes official in a health care power of attorney and physician’s directive.

4. Do you have a Last Will and Testament? According to a 2016 Gallup survey, just 44% of U.S. adults have one. Wills are crucial to avoid letting the State dictate who receives your property.

5. Are you worrying unnecessarily about federal estate taxes? Thanks to today’s $5.5 million estate tax exclusion, IRS statistics suggest just one out of every 530 deaths will likely trigger federal estate taxes. Indeed, you should review your estate plan if it was designed to avoid federal estate taxes—but was drawn up before the sharp increase in the federal estate tax exclusion since 2001, when the exclusion stood at just $675,000. If you have complicated bypass trust language, now is a great time to simplify your Estate plan. and make things easier on your surviving spouse or children.

6. Does your state impose an estate or inheritance tax? Good news . . . Texas has no state inheritance tax!

7. Should you keep your Roth IRA for your heirs? That pool of tax-free money could make a great bequest. During your lifetime, you might also help your children or other young family members fund a Roth, assuming they have earned income. With decades of compounding ahead of them, even small sums invested today could grow to become significant wealth.

8. Are the charities you support well-run? Investigate charities by heading to sites such as CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org. A crucial question: Of the dollars you donate, what percentage ends up in the hands of the people you’re hoping to help? Consider local charities if you have misgivings about national organizations.

9. Could you save even more on taxes by donating appreciated assets? And if you’re over age 70½, you could give away part of your annual required minimum distributions.

10. Have you talked to your adult children about your estate? You should discuss your estate plan with your family and how much they will likely inherit, how you would like the money used, where key documents are located and what your wishes are regarding life-prolonging medical procedures. Will contests and Trust litigations costs thousands and can permanently divide families. Be honest about what you are leaving to whom and why.

If you need help with your estate plan, give us a call at 817.638.9016. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive even more valuable planning news and tips.