You, Your Trust and Taxes

You, Your Trust and Taxes

We talk a lot about Living Trusts as an important part of estate planning. What we don’t talk about is a Trust and your taxes. But if you’re creating a Trust, thinking about transferring property, or naming a Successor Trustee, taxes are an important consideration. This is about your, your Trust and your taxes.

A Living Trust is typically a Revocable Trust, meaning that the person who’s creating it, the Grantor, may add or remove the Trust’s assets and beneficiaries at any time. The Grantor may even terminate or revoke the Trust at any time. Many people want to know about the tax implications of a Trust before they move forward with creating one.

The Trust is in the Grantor’s name and will be recorded in his taxes

Because the Trust is in the Grantor’s name, he remains entitled to receive the income and the principal of the Trust during his lifetime. As a result, the IRS still taxes the Grantor on the Trust’s income. Because this is still in the Grantor’s name, it uses his social security number to establish investments and bank accounts, so all of the Trust’s income is recorded on the Grantor’s tax return. It is not necessary to have a separate tax return for the Trust because everything is still in one person’s name—the Grantor’s.

Having a Trust means your heirs will avoid Probate

However, while the Grantor is taxed on the Trust income, the Trust’s assets are legally held by the Trust, which will survive the Grantor’s death. For this reason, the assets in the Trust do not need to go through the Probate process when the Grantor dies. This is one of the reasons we encourage everyone to create a Living Trust. You will be sparing your heirs the expense and the time-consuming process of going through Probate.

Special circumstances during Grantor’s life

If the Grantor becomes mentally incapacitated, the Successor Trustee designated in the Trust documents may choose to obtain a separate tax ID number for the Trust. This number is called a “Federal Tax ID Number”, an “Employer Identification Number”, or an “EIN”.

A Successor Trust may choose to obtain an EIN for the Trust in order to limit his own liability for the Trust’s income tax or to help fulfill his fiduciary duties. If the Trust is using an EIN, a separate tax return for the Trust will be required for each year. The Trust’s taxes will be filed on Form 1041 and would be filed by the same date as personal taxes. If it’s a simple estate, this may not be necessary. But even in straightforward situations, it often takes a year or more to settle the estate. There are cases where the Grantor is not incapacitated, and still may choose to establish an EIN for the Trust.

If the Grantor has complex personal taxes and would prefer not to report the income and losses of the Trust on his own tax return. He would still pay taxes on the income of the Trust but he would be paying those taxes under the Trusts EIN number.

In my own case, my parents lived into their 90s, and were active and healthy until the last year or so. We realized that there was some urgency in their signing their Trust, Powers of Attorney, Advance Healthcare Directives and Do Not Resuscitate Orders with their doctors while they still had testamentary capacity. They died within six months of each other, and my brother, the Successor Trustee, stepped up and managed their estate. It was very straightforward, but it still took more than a year to settle our parents’ estate. He established an EIN for the Trust and dealt with endless paperwork and bills that kept trickling in from Social Security, Medicare and miscellaneous providers.

Living Trust tax after Grantor’s death

After the Grantor’s death, the Trust remains in place and continues to hold legal ownership of all the Trust’s assets. If you’re the Successor Trustee, the Trust holds all of the assets that you inherit and you will be responsible for dividing among your family members, as per the Trust. The tax implications impact the outcome of both the Grantor and the beneficiaries.

  • The Grantor’s final tax return is filed by the Trustee or Executor of the Grantor’s Estate, and it declares all the income earned by the Grantor through the Grantor’s death.
  • However, any income earned by the Trust assets or principal after the date of the Grantor’s death is reported in a separate tax return for the Trust.

After death, the Trust converts from a Revocable to an Irrevocable Trust

The requirement that the Trust files its own tax return is a result of the Trust changing from a Revocable Trust during the Grantor’s life to an Irrevocable Trust upon the Grantor’s death. This makes perfect sense because it was Revocable before death—meaning that the Grantor can revoke, or make changes to the assets and beneficiaries. After death, of course, the Grantor can no longer make changes. The result: The Trust must file its own tax return each year.

What about estate taxes?

Thanks to changes in the estate tax laws, only those estates worth more than $11.4 million will owe federal estate taxes. This leaves most of us out, yet here in the affluent Bay Area, this extends to an increasing number of people.

California Document Preparers assists our clients in the preparation of Living TrustsOur Living Trust portfolio includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. Most of our clients are surprised at how easy it is. Schedule an appointment today by contacting us at one of our three Bay Area officesOur dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.