In most cases, tax avoidance is illegal. However, when it comes to your estate, there are loopholes you can use to minimize the value of your estate and avoid taxes.
If your estate is worth less than $11.4 million as of 2019, you need not worry about estate taxes at all. However, if your estate is worth more than that, or if you anticipate the value of your estate exceeding federal estate exemptions by the time you pass away, use SmartAsset’s strategies for avoiding estate taxes.
You are going to pass on your wealth at some point or another, so why not start today? Every year, the federal government allows you to gift up to a certain amount to single individuals. For instance, in 2017, you could gift up to $15,000 per individual, tax-free. There is no limit on how much you may gift in a single year. However, once you gift $11.4 million (or the year’s new exemption) in your lifetime, additional gifts become taxable.
Establish a family limited partnership
If you have several family-owned assets or a business that you want to pass on to your heirs, consider using a family limited partnership. Doing so entails the same steps as setting up a general partnership, except you make your children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries your partners. As the principal partner, you retain control over the assets. However, because your beneficiaries own a stake in your business or assets, the size of your estate shrinks. As a bonus, your partners will acquire your assets when you pass away, tax-free.
Set up an irrevocable life insurance trust
If you are like any responsible parent, grandparent or spouse, you have a life insurance policy in place. While the government does not typically tax life insurance benefits, it may include the proceeds in your estate once you pass. You can prevent this from happening by investing in an irrevocable life insurance trust.
This is one type of irrevocable trust that is smart to have, as most people do not adjust their life insurance policies very often. To set up this type of trust, you would transfer the ownership of your policy to another person. When you pass away, the trust would receive the benefits. However, because the trust is not yours, so to speak, the proceeds will not be included in your estate.
It is important to note that if you want to use this tactic, you should make the transfer sooner rather than later. If you transfer your policy to a trust within three years of your death, the courts would consider the benefits a part of your taxable estate.