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Cottage Planning: Dealing with Estate Taxes, Part 1

Over the years, the need for estate tax planning has changed as federal law has decreased the number of individuals who will actually pay any estate tax liability.  However, due to the uncertainty in this planning and the fact that absent a change in the law many more individuals will be subject to the estate tax in 2013, estate tax planning is still a valid issue for many couples. 

A common estate tax-minimization to use technique with cottages is the qualified personal residence trust ("QPRT").  In this planning, an owner creates a QPRT, then gifts the cottage to the trust.  The owner retains the use of the property for a set term of years, after which the property then passes directly to the beneficiaries (usually the owner's children).  Because the owner only retains a partial interest in the property, he or she is treated as making a gift of less than the full value of the property.  At the end of the term, however, the full value of the property passes to the beneficiaries without being included in the owner's estate.  This planning has allowed many families to pass a family cottage to the next generation for a significantly reduced transfer tax cost.

However, although a QPRT can be a good tax planning device, it doesn't solve the management problems associated with family cottages.  In addition, if the owner doesn't survive the term of the trust, the tax planning goals won't be realized.  Perhaps most importantly, if the owner does survive the term, she then finds herself in the position of having to lease back the property from her children if she wants to be able to continue to use the property.  Thus, although a powerful tax planning tool, an owner must carefully decide whether a QPRT is appropriate for her family cottage. 

Cottage Planning: Dealing with Estate Taxes, Part II

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume II, Number 94

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About this Author

Christopher J. Caldwell, Estate planning lawyer, Varnum
Partner

Chris is a partner and leads Varnum's Estate Planning team. Chris is acutely aware that advising clients on estate planning and wealth succession requires an intimate understanding of the client's goals, hopes, desires, and concerns in order to accurately prepare an appropriate plan. As such, he works intimately with clients and their advisors to create estate plans that enable families to plan for today as well as for future generations. Chris regularly prepares sophisticated estate plans, emphasizing probate avoidance, estate tax planning, and business succession...

616/336-6951
Laura E. Radle, estate planning attorney, Varnum
Partner

Laura is an attorney in the firm’s estate planning team where she helps individuals and families to identify their estate planning goals and to create a plan that is tailored to meet their specific needs. Laura’s practice includes a full range of estate planning and estate settlement services including the preparation of basic or complex estate plans, tax planning, business succession planning, cottage planning, charitable gift planning, and estate and trust administration services.

As a member of the Family Business Team, Laura assists business owners with the design and implementation of a succession plan that will facilitate the transfer of decision making authority and ownership interests in the event of an owner’s disability or death. Clients benefit from her regular access to colleagues in Varnum that serve the unique needs and challenges of family businesses, including the business and corporate services, labor and employment relations, family law, and litigation teams.Laura is an attorney in the firm’s estate planning team where she helps individuals and families to identify their estate planning goals and to create a plan that is tailored to meet their specific needs. Laura’s practice includes a full range of estate planning and estate settlement services including the preparation of basic or complex estate plans, tax planning, business succession planning, cottage planning, charitable gift planning, and estate and trust administration services.

616/336-6415