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The Latest News on GRATs -Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts – In Congress

David M. Frees III, Esquire on The Ten Year GRAT

The Houses Passes A New 10 Year GRAT Requirement

On June 15th, the US House passed H.R. 5486 (a “jobs bill”) that contained a requirement that GRATS (Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts) be for a term of at least 10 years.

As readers know, we have been promoting and using GRATs for many clients as a way or moving large increases in wealth without triggering significant gift taxes.

GRATs are often used by clients with rapidly rising stock values, real estate, or other assets with a high probability of significant growth.

The government now views this technique as being just too good for the tax payer and is attempting to restrict it’s use to raise additional revenue.

The main purpose of H.R. 5486 is not, of course, to modify the GRAT rules. It is instead intended to create small business tax relief.

However, as mentioned, GRATs have proven to be a highly efficient technique for transferring wealth while minimizing gift taxes, provided that the grantor survives the GRAT term and the trust assets do not depreciate in value. And, taxpayers have become skilled at maximizing the benefit of this technique, by minimizing the term of the GRAT (thus reducing the risk of the grantor’s death during the GRAT term). Many clients use a term as short as two years.

Under the current bill, now also before the Senate, the minimum term would be ten years. This, of course increases the risk that the grantor might die during the term and the benefit to the family would be lost.

So, while the GRAT will remain a valuable planning tool. The days of the short term GRAT might be limited. If you find yourself moving toward a public offering, a land development plan or some other planning that might produce large value increases, be sure to consult your legal and tax advisers about all of your options in the face of this pending legislation and the appearance that it will pass both houses.

David Frees writes on GRATs and other sophisticated estate planning techniques and actively helps affluent families and individuals in Pennsylvania to implement sophisticated estate and estate tax planning.

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