Because our government likes to tax people, there are a number of different taxes that come into play when the Settlor of a Revocable Living Trust dies. In general, the "tax at death" landscape has changed from avoiding estate tax, to avoiding capital gains tax and income tax. The following are the types of tax that might affect you if you are a Settlor, heir, beneficiary, legatee, trustee, executor, Agent, or Grantor, Trustor, or other participant in someone's transfer of wealth.
(1) Federal Estate Tax. For most people, you ain't gotta worry about it. If you have less than $11.2 million in assets when you die, you don't even have to file a federal estate tax return. Married? Exempt $22.4 million from the 40% estate tax. Yes, like everyone says, you can call me when you win the Powerball.
(2) Louisiana Inheritance Tax. It went long gone back in 2004. Doesn't exist any more.
(3) Capital Gains Tax. Definitely in play. When someone dies, assets that they own in their name, or assets in their revocable living trust, get a step-up in basis at death. This can permit the Successor Trustee or the beneficiaries to sell appreciated assets and pay little or no tax. Example: Dad bought a share of stock for $10. Before his death, the share is worth $50. If Dad sells it before he dies, he pays capital gains tax on the $40 of capital gain. But if Dad does not sell the share, and he dies, then the heirs or beneficiaries inherit the stock at the "stepped-up" $50 (fair market value on the date Dad died). Note that in community property states like Louisiana, ALL of the community property gets a step up when the first spouse dies. It makes a lot of sense, when a married person dies, to document the value of the assets so that tax can be calculated later when the asset is sold. Remember: no capital gains tax unless an asset is SOLD.
(4) Income Tax. There are all kinds of income tax ramifications to inheriting. Depends on what you inherit and many other factors. However, in general, a distribution of trust principal to a principal beneficiary after a Settlor dies is free of income tax to the recipient. However, income tax consequences exist if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, 401(k), or other pre-tax retirement account. You may also be required to pay income tax on the "gain" portion of a tax-deferred annuity when you receive it. There are also income tax consequences to inheriting appreciated savings bonds. Note that if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, and you are not the account owner's spouse, you will likely inherit it as an Inherited IRA and you cannot wait until 70.5 to start taking required distributions.
Many of the decisions you make when establishing your estate planning program, and many of the decisions your Trustee, heirs, or beneficiaries make after you death, can have a significant impact on how much tax the government takes from your estate.
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
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