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Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts

An estate plan’s goal is to find strategies that combine asset preservation, tax advantages, and flexibility. One such strategy is to create an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT).

Despite its seemingly contradictory name, an IDGT can be a valuable tool for those looking to transfer assets to their descendants while maintaining some control over the assets and avoiding estate and gift taxes.

What is an IDGT?

An intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT) is an irrevocable trust that is designed to be disregarded for income tax purposes while still being recognized for estate and gift tax purposes. The grantor, typically the creator of the trust, is considered the owner for income tax purposes. This means that the grantor pays income taxes on the trust’s income, allowing the trust’s assets to grow without being diminished by income taxes.

Benefits of IDGTs

One of the primary benefits of an IDGT is the ability to transfer assets to future generations while minimizing estate and gift taxes. Since the grantor is responsible for income taxes, the trust’s assets are allowed to appreciate without being eroded by income taxes, ultimately resulting in a larger transfer of wealth.

By transferring assets into an IDGT, the grantor can effectively freeze the value of the assets for estate tax purposes. This can be particularly beneficial if the assets are expected to appreciate significantly in the future, as any subsequent appreciation will occur outside the grantor’s taxable estate.

Despite being an irrevocable trust, an IDGT offers significant flexibility and control to the grantor. The grantor can retain the ability to make investment decisions, distribute income to beneficiaries, and even change the beneficiaries under certain circumstances. This level of control sets IDGTs apart from many other estate planning tools.

Potential Drawbacks to IDGTs

Once assets are transferred to an IDGT, they are considered permanently irrevocable. The grantor loses direct access to the assets and must rely on the trust’s terms for distributions. It is essential to carefully consider the long-term implications of transferring assets into an IDGT and ensure that the decision aligns with the grantor’s overall estate planning goals.

Though the grantor’s responsibility for income taxes can be a benefit, it is also a potential drawback. If the grantor lacks the liquidity to pay the trust’s income taxes from personal funds, it could place a financial burden on the grantor. This aspect should be carefully evaluated before establishing an IDGT.

Although the grantor retains control over certain aspects of the trust, the ability to change beneficiaries is restricted. It is crucial to select beneficiaries thoughtfully and consider potential changes in family dynamics or financial situations in the future.

Navigating IDGTs

IDGTs can be a valuable estate planning tool for those looking to transfer assets while minimizing taxes and maintaining some control. The tax advantages, estate freeze benefits, and flexibility make IDGTs an attractive option for individuals with substantial assets, especially if the assets are expected to increase in value.

The irrevocable nature of IDGTs and the potential tax liability for the grantor should be carefully considered. Consulting with an experienced Houston estate planning attorney and a tax professional will help you weigh the pros and cons of using an IDGT. Contact our office today to talk with one of our experienced attorneys about IDGTs and to determine if one will help you achieve your estate planning goals.

This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning. It is not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact our Houston office today at (713) 582-5088 or schedule a consultation.

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