Unbridled Optimism!

I must confess I am an unbridled optimist. I have always been the glass runneth over type, as opposed to a half full or half empty—kind of person. At social events, I will not shy away from the “doom and gloomers.” I usually confront them with a positive comment. The conversation goes something like this: “I can’t wait till so and so is out of office because they are ruining the country.”

My response is, “the only way to ruin a country is for its citizens to abandon it.” William James said, “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt that “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”

Here is more good news to confront the “naysayers.” The IRS has just released the “Fall 2013 Statistics of Income Bulletin.” And the news is good—go figure. For tax year 2011, taxpayers filed 145.4 million individual income tax returns. This is an increase of 1.7 percent from tax year 2010. Even better, the adjusted gross income reported on these returns is up 3.5 percent from the previous year. And the icing on the cake is taxable income for 2011 rose 4.4 percent. And knowing the taxpayers predilection for understating income and overstating expenses, I would say the news is even better.

So, has the U.S. government rescued it citizens? I would say, “No.” It’s the citizens of the United States that not only rescued themselves but saved the planet during 2007 – 2009. More particularly, it was the U.S. small business owner, who regardless of economic circumstance—famine, war, or recession—is able to make a living for themselves and their families.

If you are looking for optimism to begin the New Year, then look no further than your neighbor and all those who embrace the “can do” attitude of America. And the next time bad news is heralded at an event, share some good news. Automobile sales are up. Housing sales are up. We have a surplus of oil and we are about to export natural gas. Just being an American is cause for optimism.

Should You Retitle Your Cemetery Plots?

For today’s posting I thought I would pursue a holiday theme. All Hallows’ Eve is just around the corner. It is the night which precedes All Saints Day. All Saints Day is a Christian holiday in which Christian Saints, martyrs and departed family and friends are remembered. Also, to reinforce the interactive nature of the blog postings I thought I would include an adviser’s question. Here is what came across my desk on Monday:

Tom,
Ok, I had to ask you this because I thought it might be a question you have never considered before.  I have a client who has pre-paid cemetery plots, and she wonders if they should be retitled into the name of the RLT. Is that possible and have you ever heard of such a thing? Thanks for thinking this over.

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IDGT: The Multi-purpose Tool for an Integrated Financial Plan

In my previous post I provided a brief history of IDGTs, the applicable exclusion amount and the need for a trust to be the owner and beneficiary of a life insurance policy on the life of the grantor. The primary reason for trust ownership was to remove the death benefit from the taxable estate. However, as a result of American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2013, this reason was eliminated due to the applicable exclusion amount being raised to $5,250,000. An additional benefit of a properly drafted IDGT is asset protection for the trust corpus.

The trust may hold assets used to pay the insurance premiums on a life insurance policy, which insures the life of the grantor. This is one of the requirements necessary for a trust to be considered intentionally defective. A properly drafted IDGT allows the grantor access to the trust assets either through themselves or a non-donor spouse (spousal lifetime access). Having these assets inside of the IDGT trust provide asset protection for the beneficiaries and the grantor!

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You Have Options

Since the Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) is also an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust, it is an excellent asset protection tool. To begin today’s posting, I need to provide full disclosure. The QPRT involves both trust and tax planning: so the underlying mechanisms are complex. I want to advise you not to attempt this strategy on your own. But instead, consult your CPA and attorney before transferring your home into a trust.

A QPRT is an irrevocable trust funded by the transfer of a personal residence, a vacation home, or both, to the trust. The homeowner still retains a right to reside in the home for a term of years. The term selected is typically between five and 20 years, although the IRS imposes no minimum or maximum term: the longer the term, the greater the benefits that are available. At the end of the term the homeowner no longer has the right to live in the residence. However, if they desire to continue to live in the home then they may then lease the property from the trust or its beneficiaries, which is typically involves their children.

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