Is a Defect a Good Thing? Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts in Estate Planning
The notion that your estate plan contains a defect would not normally be welcomed as good news. But despite the moniker, an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT) can be an advantageous tool for minimizing estate taxes and maximizing the money and property that are passed on to a spouse, descendants, or other beneficiaries.
The defect in this case refers to trust provisions that make the grantor (the person creating the trust)—not the trust—the trust owner and therefore liable for trust income taxes. By not having annual income taxes come directly out of the trust’s money and property, more value remains for beneficiaries. Further, the appreciation of accounts and property is excluded from the trust owner’s taxable estate.
How an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust Works
Typically used by wealthy families to preserve intergenerational wealth, IDGTs are a type of irrevocable trust best suited to holding appreciating assets, such as real estate and securities.
These assets are held outside of the grantor’s estate for transfer tax purposes (gift and estate tax), but for federal income tax purposes, they are treated as though they are owned by the grantor. Thus, the grantor pays income tax on the appreciation of the assets placed in the trust, but the appreciation of those assets is excluded from the grantor’s estate, which amounts to a tax-free gift to the trust. In other words, once the assets are placed in the trust, their value is effectively frozen. Any appreciation that occurs does so outside of the grantor’s estate.
The “defective” part of this arrangement is the intentional inclusion of a right of power that results in the grantor being treated as the trust owner from an […]