Today, increasing numbers of individuals are turning to trusts as opposed to wills for their estate planning. Trusts are often advantageous over wills because they allow for greater flexibility and control over assets. It is important to know the impact of capital gains tax on the assets that fund a trust.
Step-up in Basis
Capital assets include items like a house, stocks or bonds, and machinery. When one of these items is sold, the difference in the sale price and the original purchase price is considered a capital gain or loss. If an item is sold and a profit is realized, the capital gain is taxed.
If an individual forms a grantor-type trust, all appreciated assets that are transferred into the trust (items like real estate or a stock portfolio) are eligible to receive a step-up in basis upon the death of the grantor. Basis is the cost of the property or asset. A step-up in basis is a readjustment of the value of an asset to its current value for tax purposes upon inheritance of the asset. This is important because it minimizes the beneficiary’s capital gains taxes going forward.
For example, let’s say a grantor purchased an asset for $50 and transferred it to a trust. The grantor’s basis is $50, meaning if the asset were to be sold, the difference between $50 and the sale price would be the amount subject to the capital gains tax. Now, let’s say that at the time of the grantor’s death, the value of the asset is $100. The beneficiary receives a step-up in basis, meaning his or her basis is $100, not the $50 that the grantor originally paid. This is important because if the beneficiary decides to immediately sell the asset for $100, she will not be subject to any tax. Further, any sale in the future after the asset increases in value will be subject to tax on the difference between the sale price and $100, as opposed to $50 if a step-up in basis was not available.
An important consideration is when the step-up in basis is applied. For example, how is the step-up in basis determined if a married couple each owns half of an asset through the use of separate trusts and they die at different points in time? If the deceased spouse’s share is transferred to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will receive a step-up in basis. When the surviving spouse dies and the trust is inherited by the beneficiaries, they will also receive a step-up in basis.
Finally, it is important to be aware of the Medicare tax on “unearned” net investment income. This imposes a 3.8 percent tax on the net investment income, which includes capital gains, of joint filers who have a modified adjusted gross income of greater than $250,000 or single filers with an adjusted gross income of greater than $200,000.
Help Forming Your Trust
If you would like more information about forming a trust, you should reach out to an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney today. Our firm proudly represents individuals throughout the northwest suburbs, including areas such as Crystal Lake, Inverness, Schaumburg, Kenilworth, Long Grove, Palatine, and Barrington.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.