A dreaded disease is spreading like wildfire in the United States. It debilitates most successful business owners, then ravages some or all of the children, and eventually hurts the grandchildren. Known by various names, the disease’s most common name is “estate-tax-itus.” It drains family wealth.
Some people don’t even know they have the disease. Most know, however, because they have the painful symptoms and search in vain for a cure. They attend seminars and read articles, special reports and books. They go from advisor to advisor looking for relief.
The key question is, is there a cure? The answer . . . a resounding “YES”. This article shows you how to start the process to cure estate-tax-itus for yourself, your family and your business. Every time. No matter how young or old you are. Whether you are worth $1 million, $10 million, or more. There are many ways to fight the disease, but the best way is to build an “asset-immune system.” Here’s what you do:
Step 1. Prepare a personal financial statement for you and your spouse. Divide your assets into the following five categories: residence, business, qualified plans (pension, profit sharing, 401(k), rollover IRA or other qualified plans), all other assets and life insurance.
Step 2. Make three lists of your objectives: A—for you and your spouse, B—for your family (typically children and grandchildren) and C—for your business.
Step 3. Find an advisor that knows the exact tax strategies to use to accomplish your objectives using the specific assets on your financial statement.
Here are the typical core objectives we see in practice. For list A, maintain your lifestyle for as long as you (husband and wife) live and control your assets for as long as you live. For list B, transfer your assets to the children and grandchildren intact—free of the estate tax—and educate your grandchildren. For list C, transfer your business to the business child (or children) tax-free and treat the non-business children fairly.
The following are the most common strategies used for the assets you own.
• Your Residence: Use a qualified personal residence trust to remove the residence from your estate, yet live in it for as long as you live.
• Your Business: Transfer your business to the business children using a Grantor retained annuity trust. This removes the business from your estate but allows you to keep control for life (because you retain voting control).
• Qualified plans: The funds in these plans are double taxed, robbing your family of about 75 percent of the plan funds (i.e. the tax collectors get about $750,000 if you have $l million in the plans, and your family receives only $250.000). Create a subtrust to buy life insurance. This usually triples (or more) the amount you have in the plan, and your heirs get it all tax-free. For example, $1 million in the plan (worth only $250,000 to your family) will turn into $3 million or more for your family with a subtrust, tax-free.
• All other assets: Transfer these assets (all your assets—except those in the first three categories—including publicly traded stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments) to a family limited partnership.
• Insurance: Get it out of your corporation and transfer all policies you or your spouse own to an irrevocable life insurance trust.
Finally, Step 4 to build an “asset-immune system” is this. If you are about to start your estate planning process, find an advisor who knows how to implement the first three steps. If your plan does not eliminate the estate tax, get a second opinion.