As a Trust Beneficiary, Am I Required to Pay Taxes?

When an irrevocable trust makes a distribution, it deducts the income distributed on its own tax return and issues the beneficiary a tax form called a K-1. This form shows the amount of the beneficiary’s distribution that’s interest income, as opposed to principal. With that information, the beneficiary know how much she’s required to claim as taxable income when filing taxes.

Investopedia’s recent article on this subject asks “Do Trust Beneficiaries Pay Taxes?” The article explains that when trust beneficiaries receive distributions from the trust’s principal balance, they don’t have to pay taxes on the distribution. The IRS assumes this money was already taxed before it was put into the trust. After money is placed into the trust, the interest it accumulates is taxable as income—either to the beneficiary or the trust. The trust is required to pay taxes on any interest income it holds and doesn’t distribute past year-end. Interest income the trust distributes is taxable to the beneficiary who gets it.

The money given to the beneficiary is considered to be from the current-year income first, then from the accumulated principal. This is usually the original contribution with any subsequent deposits. It’s income in excess of the amount distributed. Capital gains from this amount may be taxable to either the trust or the beneficiary. All the amount distributed to and for the benefit of the beneficiary is taxable to her to the extent of the distribution deduction of the trust.

If the income or deduction is part of a change in the principal or part of the estate’s distributable income, then the income tax is paid by the trust and not passed on to the beneficiary. An irrevocable trust that has discretion in the distribution of amounts and retains earnings pays trust tax that is $3,011.50 plus 37% of the excess over $12,500.

The two critical IRS forms for trusts are the 1041 and the K-1. IRS Form 1041 is like a Form 1040. This is used to show that the trust is deducting any interest it distributes to beneficiaries from its own taxable income.

The trust will also issue a K-1. This IRS form details the distribution, or how much of the distributed money came from principal and how much is interest. The K-1 is the form that allows the beneficiary to see her tax liability from trust distributions.

The K-1 schedule for taxing distributed amounts is generated by the trust and given to the IRS. The IRS will deliver this schedule to the beneficiary, so that she can pay the tax. The trust will fill out a Form 1041 to determine the income distribution deduction that’s conferred to the distributed amount. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you work through this process.

Reference: Investopedia (July 15, 2019) “Do Trust Beneficiaries Pay Taxes?”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Irrevocable Trust, Inheritance, Tax Planning, Financial Planning, Probate Attorney, Capital Gains

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What Are the Rules About an Inheritance Received During Marriage?

A good add-on to that sentence is something like, “provided that it is kept separate from marital assets.” To say it another way, when an inheritance or any other exempt asset (like a premarital asset) is “commingled” with marital assets, it can lose its exempt status.

Trust Advisor’s recent article asks, “Do I Have To Divide The Inheritance I Received During My Marriage?” As the article explains, this is the basic rule, but it’s not iron-clad.

A few courts say that an inheritance was exempt, even when it was left for only a short time in a joint account. This can happen after a parent’s death. The proceeds of a life insurance policy that an adult child beneficiary receives, are put into the family account to save time in a stressful situation. You may be too distraught to deal with this issue when the insurance check arrives, so you or your spouse might deposit it into a joint account. However, in one case, the wife took the check and opened an investment account with the money. That insurance money deposited in the investment account was never touched, but the wife still wanted half of it when the couple divorced a few years later. However, in that case, the judge ruled that the proceeds from the insurance policy were the husband’s separate property.

The law generally says that assets exempt from equitable distribution (like insurance proceeds) may become subject to equitable distribution, if the recipient intends them to become marital assets. The comingling of these assets with marital assets may make them subject to a division in a divorce. However, if there’s no intent for the assets to become martial property, the assets may remain the recipient spouse’s property.

Courts will look at “donative intent,” which asks if the spouse had the intent to gift the inheritance to the marriage, making it a marital asset. Courts may look at a commingled inheritance for donative intent, but also examine other factors. This can include the proximity in time between the inheritance and the divorce. Therefore, if a spouse deposited an inheritance into a joint account a year before the divorce, she could argue that there should be a disproportionate distribution in her favor or that she should get back the whole amount. Of course, the longer amount of time between the inheritance and the divorce, the more difficult this argument becomes.

Be sure to speak with your estate planning attorney about the specific laws in your state. If there is a hint of trouble in the marriage, it might be wiser to simply open a new account for the inheritance.

Reference: Trust Advisor (October 29, 2019) “Do I Have To Divide The Inheritance I Received During My Marriage?”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Asset Protection, Probate Court, Financial Planning, Probate Attorney, Life Insurance, Divorce

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How Can Life Insurance Help Me with my Post-Divorce Estate Planning?

Divorce can be extremely stressful, but in addition, the challenges divorce brings to estate planning can be an added worry. In many instances, a frequently overlooked strategy can provide real solutions for divorcees and blended families. That’s life insurance. Using life insurance to address some of these issues, can help you create an estate plan that really fits your needs, goals and unique family circumstances.

Insurance News Net’s article “5 Ways Life Insurance Eases Post-Divorce Estate Planning” provides us with five ways life insurance can help you in the event of a divorce:

Have money for divorce-related expenses. If the divorce is contested or includes child custody issues, the proceedings be quite long, maybe months or years. As a result, your attorney’s fees could be hefty. Those with an established permanent life insurance policy can take withdrawals or loans from the policy’s cash value to help pay expenses. If the policy is designed effectively, you won’t have to liquidate other assets or take money from your estate designated for beneficiaries.

Protect your income post-divorce. Your income can change significantly after a divorce, especially if one spouse was a stay-at-home parent. They may get alimony payments to help make up the difference, but if the payor unexpectedly dies, the lost income can create a lot of stress and financial hardship for those left behind. Permanent life insurance on the paying spouse can help provide coverage and replace income lost, if they pass away.

Preserve your estate post-divorce. Life insurance can also provide funds to pay off existing debt held by the deceased spouse. This also can eliminate the need to liquidate other assets from the estate that would have gone to the surviving spouse or other heirs. Take withdrawals or loans from the policy–tax-free, if the policy is set up correctly–and you can effectively plan your legacy, even if your ex-spouse hasn’t been financially responsible.

Ensure that children get a fair inheritance. If you have children from a previous marriage, it may make sense to provide for them through life insurance, rather than passing their assets to a new spouse first. In the alternative, you can provide for your new spouse through life insurance and leave the estate to the children outright or in a trust. With either option, dividing how you leave assets to biological children and a new spouse in a blended family, can eliminate stress and bad feelings, especially if the new spouse has children of their own.

Help fund college or other expenses for your child’s children. Protecting the lives of both parents with permanent life insurance allows you to make certain that the expenses for the children are addressed. Therefore, if the former spouse is responsible for paying medical expenses, college expenses, or other costs for the children, life insurance can provide needed funds, if that spouse passes. Permanent life insurance with cash value can also provide funds during the insured spouse’s lifetime (if cash isn’t readily available) to pay college tuition or help adult children repay student loan debt.

You should also look at permanent instead of term insurance. Term insurance may be less expensive, but permanent insurance can accumulate cash value that can be drawn from the policy, while the spouse is still alive, as well as providing a death benefit. You may want to also see about adding riders to customize your policy. With a permanent life insurance policy and a long-term care rider, you have the ability to accelerate the policy’s benefit while you’re alive to pay for long-term care costs. This can put to rest some of the concerns for divorcees, about who will take care of them if they can’t take care of themselves.

A carefully planned permanent life insurance policy can help you protect yourself, your income and your estate throughout your lifetime, even if you experience divorce.

Reference: Insurance News Net (November 5, 2019) “5 Ways Life Insurance Eases Post-Divorce Estate Planning”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Asset Protection, Inheritance, Financial Planning, Probate Attorney, Life Insurance, Divorce

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