As they say, there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. This is particularly true when you are a business owner or preparing your estate plan. Whether you are a business owner hoping to pass your business on to family or key employees, a high net worth individual wanting to avoid as much estate tax as possible, a grandparent wanting to make gifts to your grandchildren to fund their education or someone who wants to make a large gift to charity, some type of tax issue is probably going to be involved.
Estate, Gift and Generation Skipping Tax
For those with larger estates, avoiding or minimizing the estate tax due by their heirs at death is usually a big concern. While the federal estate tax is currently imposed only on estates valued at more than $11 million, estate tax laws often change so it’s important to make sure your estate plan contains provisions for minimizing the estate taxes due by your heirs. While the State of Louisiana does not currently impose an inheritance tax, property owned in other states may be subject to that state’s inheritance or estate tax and Louisiana law could also change.
In addition to federal estate tax on larger estates, gifts made to grandchildren or those over a generation younger than you may be subject to an additional generation skipping transfer tax (“GSTT”). Having to pay both of these taxes can result in a significant loss of estate assets. Additionally, these taxes are usually due within nine months of the date of death meaning that assets often have to be sold quickly to generate cash to pay the taxes.
Fortunately, with proper estate planning, most, if not all estate tax and GSTT tax can be eliminated. Unfortunately, the estate, gift and generation skipping tax is like a penalty for those who fail to plan or who plan improperly.
Because of this, your estate planning attorney should be well-versed in the workings of estate, gift and generation skipping tax. Both of our attorneys are board certified by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization in estate planning and administration which means they are competent to deal with estate and gift tax issues. Additionally, attorney, Betty Raglin (in our Lake Charles office), is a board certified tax attorney so she is well-versed in numerous types of tax law.
Business Succession Planning and Taxes
Ms. Raglin regularly works with business owners to ensure they are able to transition their business to heirs or key employees in the most tax-advantageous way. Besides the other issues involved in successfully transitioning a business to your successors, there are often estate and/or income tax issues that need to be addressed.
Income Tax Planning
In the past, estate planners were often focused on minimizing estate, gift and GSTT tax because those tax rates were so high and there were many more estates subject to those taxes because the taxes were due at much lower estate values. Now that estates do not become subject to estate tax until they are valued at over $11 million, income tax planning has become more important.
Income tax planning often focuses on way to reduce or defer the payment of income tax. This may be accomplished through finding ways to defer payment on the sale of real estate, reduce the recognition of taxable income or plan with the way income is characterized. It could also mean shifting taxable income to taxpayers in lower brackets while allowing the family unit to continue enjoying the benefits of the income.
Charitable planning was often done in the past to reduce estate transfer taxes and often involved the use of charitable trusts such as charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. Many people today are interested in leaving gifts to charity for purely altruistic purposes. In doing so, there are often tax planning techniques that can benefit the individual and/or the amount realized by the charity even when estate taxes are not an issue.
Regardless of your needs in the area of taxation as it involves your estate or business planning, our attorneys can guide you in your planning.