To ensure that your estate doesn’t lose assets to federal gift and estate taxes you may need to include tax avoidance strategies in your estate plan. One estate planning tool that can provide tax avoidance benefits is a Grantor Retained Income Trust, or GRIT. Always consult with your estate planning attorney before deciding what tools to incorporate into your estate plan. In the meantime, however, the Indianapolis trust attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain how a Grantor Retained Income Trust works and why you might want to include one in your estate plan.
What Is a GRIT?
A GRIT is a specialized type of irrevocable trust that allows the Grantor (creator of the trust, also referred to as the “Settlor”) to transfer assets into the trust while retaining the right to receive all of the net income from the trust assets for a fixed term of years, referred to as the “initial term.” Income from the trust is distributed to the Grantor at least annually during the initial term. At the end of the initial term, the remaining principal is either distributed to the trust beneficiaries or remains in the trust for the benefit of those beneficiaries. The primary benefit of a GRIT is that if (this condition is important) the Grantor survives the initial term, the value of the principal held in the GRIT is excluded from the Grantor’s estate for federal gift and estate tax purposes.
How Does a GRIT Help with Tax Avoidance?
The tax avoidance benefit of a GRIT is found in how the value of the trust principal is determined because those assets are valued at a discount. The value of the discount depends on the length of the initial term of the GRIT, and the applicable federal rate in effect at the time the GRIT is established. The transfer of assets to a GRIT constitutes a gift equal to the total value of the assets transferred to the GRIT, less the present value of the retained income interest held by the Grantor for the initial term. If the Grantor survives the initial term, the assets comprising the GRIT will pass to the designated remainder beneficiaries at a reduced gift tax value.
Section 2702 of the Internal Revenue Code determines who you cannot name as a beneficiary in a GRIT. Excluded beneficiaries include your spouse, your ancestors or the ancestors of your spouse, any lineal descendant of yours or your spouse, any sibling of yours or your spouse, or the spouses of any of the foregoing persons. You can name lineal descendants of siblings, (nieces and nephews) relatives even more distant than nieces and nephews, or friends of yours or your spouse as beneficiaries of a GRIT.
How a GRIT Works in Practice
Imagine that you establish a 15-year GRIT and transfer $100,000 of assets into the trust and that the applicable federal rate is five percent. As the Grantor, you will receive the income from the GRIT during the initial term. The present value of the retained income interest is $66,007, making the value of the gift $33,993. If you survive until the end of the initial term, however, the remainder beneficiaries will receive $100,0000 plus all capital growth. Your estate, however, will only need to acknowledge a lifetime gift in the amount of $33,993 (the applicable value of the gift at the time it was made).
Disadvantages of Using a GRIT
Just like most tax savings tools and strategies, there are some disadvantages to relying on a GRIT. First, it is an irrevocable trust, meaning if your personal circumstances change, you cannot make corresponding changes to the trust. Second, if you do not survive the initial term the advantages gained by creating a GRIT do not apply.
Contact the Indianapolis Trust Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about establishing a Grantor Retained Income Trust, contact the experienced Indianapolis trust attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.