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Monday, February 18, 2019

IRS Blesses 2nd Marriage Planning Technique for IRA

A common issue in planning for marriages with prior children is how to provide for the surviving spouse, while also making provision for children of a prior marriage or relationship. A regularly used planning arrangement is to designate as successor owner at death of the original owner a marital trust that provides for assets to be expended for the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime, with a remainder to the children and lineal descendants of the first spouse to die. This avoids the problem of leaving the assets outright to the surviving spouse, who then can leave the assets to other beneficiaries at his or her death.

If the asset at issue is an IRA or qualified plan interest, the owning spouse may have similar concerns. However, income tax issues complicate the planning. For income tax planning purposes, it is usually desirable that the owning spouse have the option to “stretch” the payouts over the life expectancy of the surviving spouse (or of the decedent spouse) and thus defer income taxes by having the beneficiary be a “qualified beneficiary” of the IRA/qualified plan assets. This can be done via an outright beneficiary designation to the surviving spouse, but presents the same issues with prior children of the decedent spouse as discussed above. Unfortunately, in regard to an IRA or qualified plan asset, the use of trusts to receive the interests faces planning obstacles per the provisions of the Regulations that limit the ability to have the trust beneficiary(ies) be treated as "qualified beneficiaries.”

A recent private letter ruling confirms a fairly straightforward planning mechanism to obtain stretch status for an IRA via a trust under these circumstances. The blessed methodology is for the IRA owner’s revocable trust to be named as beneficiary of the IRA at the owner’s death. The revocable trust provides that a separate trust will be created to hold all IRA and qualified plan assets received. The spouse is named as the sole lifetime beneficiary of the trust, and the owner’s children are named as remaindermen. The IRS ruled that this arrangement passes muster under the Regulations, and the surviving spouse is treated as a qualified beneficiary of the IRA,and the sole one at that.

To reach this result, the general provisions for qualifying trust beneficiaries as qualified beneficiaries must be met. These include the requirements under section 1.401(a)(9)-4, Q&A-5:  (1) the trust is valid under state law, or would be but for the fact there is no corpus; (2) the trust is irrevocable or will, by its terms, become irrevocable upon the death of the employee; (3) the beneficiaries of the trust who are beneficiaries with respect to the trust's interest in the employee's benefit are identifiable within the meaning of section 1.401(a)(9)-4, Q&A-1, from the trust instrument; and (4) the documentation described in section 1.401(a)(9)-4, Q&A-6, has been provided to the plan administrator. Further, for the spouse to be sole designated beneficiary, the trust must be a conduit trust - it must contain provisions requiring the immediate distribution of all retirement plan or RIA distributions by the trustee to the beneficiary.

The payment to two trusts (first the revocable trust, and then onto the separate trust for IRA/retirement plan assets), is permitted under section 1.401(a)(9)-4, Q&A-5(d). That provision states that if the beneficiary of the trust named as beneficiary of an employee's interest is another trust, the beneficiaries of the other trust will be treated as having been designated as beneficiaries of the first trust, and thus, as having been designated by the employee under the plan for purposes of determining the distribution period under section 401(a)(9)(A)(ii), provided that the requirements of section 1.401(a)(9)-4, Q&A-5(b), are satisfied with respect to such other trust in addition to the trust named as beneficiary.

PLR 201902023

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Court Order Enjoining Occupancy or Residence by Owners Did Not Terminate Homestead Status [Florida]

A recent case addressed whether owners who had to cease living on homestead property by reason of a court order to vacate the property and enjoining them from residing thereon due to unsafe conditions and code violations, should automatically be treated as having abandoned their homestead. Homestead status was relevant because the husband deeded the property away without joinder of his wife – such a transfer is void under Florida’s Constitution if the property remained homestead property. Here, the husband and wife had moved off the property and been living in a rented residences or stayed with friends for five years after the court order.

The trial court found that the property ceased to be homestead property. Reversing the trial court, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that abandonment of homestead status under these circumstances was not automatic, and denied the buyer’s request (who was seeking to enforce the transfer) for summary judgment on the issue. While homestead status can be lost through abandonment, a finding of abandonment requires a strong showing of intent not to return to the homestead. Such a determination requires a review of the totality of circumstances to determine such intent. Case law supports that an involuntary cessation of residency on the homestead does not alone constitute abandonment. Based on the foregoing, the appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings, including resolving the question of fact of the wife’s intent (or absence of intent) to abandon the subject property.

Yost-Rudge v. A-to-Z Properties, Inc., 2019 WL 459015 (4th DCA, February 6, 2019)