Many people commonly use Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT) to ensure that life insurance owned by an individual is not included in their taxable estate at death. While an ILIT is a useful trust, you could accomplish far more with a TAP™ trust. So let's review an ILIT and distinguish how a TAP enhances the benefits often sought by ILITs. An ILIT is an irrevocable trust wherein the grantor retains no rights to modify the trust, benefit from the trust or control the trust. Retention of any of these rights will trigger estate tax inclusion under Internal Revenue Code Sections 2036 through 2042. An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust may be a non-grantor trust or grantor trust, depending upon the attorney's drafting choice.
Triggering a provision of Internal Revenue Code Sections 671 through 679 will cause the inclusion of all income from the ILIT to be included in the personal income tax return of the grantor. While the grantor retains no rights to modify, control, or benefit from the trust, the grantor may be taxed on its income if a grantor trust provision is triggered. The most common of these grantor trust provisions is to allow the grantor to substitute assets of equal value, or make loans to the grantor without adequate security. By choosing grantor trust status, it essentially serves as an additional gift without having to utilize the annual gift tax exclusion, because the income taxes are paid from the grantor, rather than the trust. As a result, those additional sums are retained in the trust, thus providing additional assets to the intended beneficiaries that otherwise would have been used to pay the taxes.
One of the core elements of an ILIT is ensuring the use of Crummey powers. Crummey powers are based on the landmark case Crummey v. the Commissioner wherein the U.S. Tax Court held that granting someone the right to withdraw money funded to a trust immediately but limited to a short period of time (i.e. 30 days) was sufficient timing to deem the contribution a "present interest" and thereby trigger the annual gift tax exclusion for the contribution. A Crummey power is essential to ensure that the annual gift tax exclusions are utilized so as not to reduce the grantor's overall lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. One critical restriction under the current power, however, is that Section of the Internal Revenue Code limits the annual exclusion made to trusts to the greater of 5 percent of trust assets or $5,000. Therefore, it is essential to have a "hanging power" to ensure any contributions in excess of $5,000 or 5 percent are not deemed to be taxable gifts.
These hanging powers allow the Crummey beneficiary to continue to have the right to withdraw this excess amount, even beyond the 30-day period. For example, if a grantor contributes $42,000 to a trust for three Crummey beneficiaries and the $42,000 is the only asset of the trust and it was utilized to pay the insurance premium, then 5 percent of the trust assets only equals $2,000. Obviously, $5,000 would be greater, so $5,000 of each $14,000 contribution would be deemed to be a present interest gift and $9,000 of the contribution would "hang" until no contributions are made in a given year. At that time, an additional allocation of the annual gift would occur based on the $5,000 or 5 percent trust value limitation. Obviously, this could be problematic if these powers hang and one of your Crummey beneficiaries becomes subject to lawsuits, divorce or long-term care costs.
Another consideration with the Crummey power is to have straw Crummey beneficiaries. This is typically done by adding beneficiaries to the lifetime trust, which operates during the grantor's lifetime and provides the names of people who are not residuary beneficiaries. For example, one straw Crummey beneficiary might include spouses or other remote relatives who are willing to be a Crummey beneficiary, understanding that they are not likely to be an ultimate beneficiary. This allows additional payments each year to be contributed within the annual exclusion limit. Both ILITs and TAP trusts have Crummey provisions with hanging powers.
Neither ILITs nor TAPs are user friendly to individuals with estates less than $5,450,000, or $10,900,000 if married. These excessive restrictions need not be applied in circumstances where the total estate of the grantor plus the life insurance benefits does not exceed the estate tax limit. Obviously, the only other consideration would be if your state had an estate tax at a lower limit. If estate tax is a concern, a primary benefit of the TAP trust over the ILIT is that a TAP trust stands for Tax All Purpose trust, which means its intended benefit is far beyond the holding of life insurance. The TAP trust will typically hold life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, and other assets and/or business interests that the grantor would like to get passed on to the trust beneficiaries after death. This is especially helpful, as it will ensure that there are other assets in the trust other than the life insurance policy to accumulate assets of more than $280,000 to ensure that the entire Crummey contribution can be utilized each year with no hanging powers. In addition, the TAP trust has extensive provisions for lifetime and residuary trusts to the individuals or classes of people.
For example, sometimes a grantor will create a family-type trust that takes effect after death for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children, and upon the death of the surviving spouse, it provides separate residuary trusts for each child. Other times, clients may want to create a benefit for a class of their children for their lifetime, and at the death of the last child the balance is allocated to their then-surviving children in separate share trusts. TAP trusts are extremely flexible and powerful in ensuring that whatever assets are passed through them (life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.) are passed on to their loved ones fully asset-protected in separate asset protection trusts or common trusts, depending on the client's goal. One of the critical distinctions in asset protection trusts after death is to ensure that the trustee is an independent trustee under Internal Revenue Code Section 672(c). One distinction to resolve the concern of naming the child beneficiary as the trustee without violating Section 672(c) is to ensure that you name a co-trustee who is adverse, a strategy far too few lawyers utilize. For example, after the death of a grantor, the surviving spouse can be the trustee with a co-trustee of one of their children. While this would be considered under the family attribution rules to be a controlled trustee, the adverse party interest ensures that the Internal Revenue Code distinctions are met. For example, if a child was a co-trustee with the spouse and approved a payment to the spouse during a family trust administration, that would be adverse to the child's residuary interest and thus satisfy the restrictions within 672(c).
The other exciting element of a TAP trust is the allowance of the spouse or trust protector to have a power of appointment to modify the beneficiaries within a class of people identified by the grantor. This can ensure that the family is able to adjust for changing circumstances after the death of the grantor to cover his or her overall planning intentions. One of the key distinctions of a TAP trust is also specific language that authorizes the accumulation of income but specifically requires the trustee to account separately for income that is accumulated and converted to principal, so as to ensure no portion of that is utilized to pay insurance premiums on the grantor. While the trust ensures that all the proper legal language is included, to be legally proper it is incumbent upon the attorney to educate the client to understand how to properly administer a trust so as not to violate that provision.
So, as you look at the distinctions between an ILIT and a TAP, it's important to note that everything an ILIT is is included in the TAP trust, but not everything in a TAP trust is included in an ILIT, so a TAP is a far more expansive trust that allows much more flexibility and use by a client. If you want to learn more about becoming a Lawyers with Purpose member to discover how the TAP trust can benefit you in your practice and, more importantly, benefit your clients consider joining our FREE webinar "The Four Essentials For A Profitable Practice" on Thursday, April 21st at 8EST. Click here to register now.
This is a FREE training webinar designed for attorneys who wish to add Estate Planning, Asset Protection, Medicaid, or VA Planning to their practice, or significantly improve on their existing business using our PROVEN and paint-by-number strategies. Reserve your spot now!
David J. Zumpano, Co-founder - Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center