As many of you know the estate tax exemptions and rates have been all over the board in recent years. For many Americans, this isn’t an issue. However, when you begin amassing a large enough estate this becomes a huge concern. Historically, passing away with a large enough estate has imposed upwards of 55% tax. For 2014, this rate is at 40% with a $5,340,000 personal lifetime exclusion. Below are 5 strategies you can use now to help mitigate any future tax burden you should incur.
1. Start gifting smaller amounts
There is an annual gift exclusion of up to $14,000 per person per year. Meaning a married couple could collectively gift 28,000 per year per person without eating into any of their lifetime estate tax exclusion.
2. Gift highly appreciable assets now
Gifts of over $14,000 will still need to be reported on the federal Form 709 (and will consequently count against your lifetime limit) but gifting these assets now, instead of waiting, allows the appreciation to build with the recipient instead of counting against your lifetime limit later on.
3. Buy life insurance
Life insurance proceeds are not includible in your taxable estate and are, therefore, a good way of sheltering your net worth. Doing this essentially transforms taxable assets into non-taxable income once a death occurs (assuming the estate is not the beneficiary of the policy and the decedent is not the owner).
4. Use both exemptions
Currently, the tax code allows for the husband and wife to each claim a $5.34 million estate/gift exemption. If elected timely, any unused portion of a spouse’s estate can be transferred to the surviving spouse (called portability).
5. Take advantage of unlimited exemptions
When in doubt, be charitable! The IRS allows you to contribute an unlimited amount to the qualified charities of your choice. So if you are considering donating a portion of your estate and are over the exemption limitation this would be a terrific way of sheltering those dollars from taxation.
Courtney Elgin, CPA