Deciding Between a Will and a Trust? The Distinctions You Need to Know

The Basics of Wills and Trusts  and What You Need to Know About Probate

We get a lot of questions about the differences between a will and a trust – but there are a few more distinctions we think you should know. Understanding how to protect your assets and your family requires knowledge of what protections your will, trust, or testamentary trust actually grant you and your beneficiaries.

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that is used to direct the distribution of assets, and, when applicable, to appoint guardians for children. An attorney drafts your will, and you can work with them to update it as frequently as needed to ensure it’s still applicable to your current situation.

What happens when you don’t have a will?

When a person passes without a will, it’s called dying “intestate.” If this happens, the state distributes the deceased person’s assets according to the laws of the state.

The Basic Components of a Will?

A will is made up of several parts, including the people involved. Every will has a testator, an executor, and a beneficiary, here’s a brief explanation of these roles:

Testator: A testator creates a valid will to be executed upon death.

Executor: The person who carries out the wishes of the testator according to the will.

Beneficiary: A beneficiary is a person (or persons) who inherits the assets and/or estate left by the deceased in the will. A beneficiary can also be an entity (e.g., charity, business, trust) rather than a person.

A will, or testamentary will, is prepared by the testator and signed in the presence of witnesses. To ensure the will is comprehensive and makes legal sense, it’s best to prepare a will with professional assistance from an attorney.

There are other types of wills, but they are less likely to be carried out after the testator’s death. An example of a non-testamentary will is a holographic will. A person writes and signs a holographic will, but not in the presence of a witness. 

While a will covers many assets, there are several exceptions, such as life insurance payouts. Because life insurance policies name beneficiaries, the will cannot override that distribution. For more comprehensive asset protection, you may want to consider establishing a trust.

A will is subject to the probate court, which takes time and costs money, a will also becomes a part of public record, which could be a privacy issue for people.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process distributing a deceased person’s estate as designated in their will or by state law or both.

When a person passes without an established trust, the probate process typically proceeds as follows:

  1. The will or the probate court appoints a trust administrator or executor.
  2. The court determines if the will is valid, so it makes sense to draft your will with the help of an attorney. Your will must also have the appropriate witnesses according to your state’s laws.
  3. The court inventories all properties and assets. They cannot be sold nor distributed until the probate process completes.
  4. The court appraises all properties and uses the assets to pay all debts and taxes that may exist.
  5. Assets are distributed according to the will if a valid will exists and according to state law if a valid will does not exist.

 

Why Do You Want to Avoid Probate?

In addition to probate being a public process, it also allows for people to challenge the will, leaving the fate of the will in the hands of the court. Probate is not a quick process. On average, it takes six to nine months to complete. During the probate process, assets become “frozen,” meaning they can’t be sold nor utilized by beneficiaries.

Maintain Family Harmony

Moreover, often, the surprising drawback for families that go through a probate process is that it may disrupt family harmony during an emotional time. Family members may feel entitled to assets or may feel they have a more precise understanding of the intentions of the testator than other family members. Or, as mentioned above, family members may challenge a will forcing avoidable issues with other family members.

A properly established trust ensures that a grantor’s vision and intentions come to fruition.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal agreement that takes effect as soon as you create it, unlike a will that only takes effect when the testator passes. The trust distributes wealth at a point specified by the grantor.

Trusts are flexible (but do not have to be flexible) agreements that are easily customized to meet the needs of the grantor and the beneficiaries. Contrary to wills, trusts avoid probate court: they do not become public record, and the family maintains a deeper level of privacy.

The Basic Construction of a Trust

The roles of those involved with a trust are similar to those of a will but with slightly different terminology:

Grantor: The grantor establishes a trust.

Executor: The executor is the person or business entity responsible for the execution of the trust.

Beneficiary: The beneficiary receives distributions from the trust.

There are two basic types of trusts – inter vivos (living) and testamentary. 

Living Trust

A grantor establishes a living trust when they are still alive and is either revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts have more flexibility than irrevocable, but both types avoid probate and help retain privacy.

A trust allows the grantor to decide who receives trust distributions and when. The trust gives complete control to the grantor, avoids probate, and, when combined with a will, creates a comprehensive estate plan.

Testamentary Trust

Not all people establish trusts ahead of time, some trusts come into existence when the grantor dies, and their will directs the formation of a trust. This type of trust is called a testamentary trust.

When a person creates a will, they can specify the creation of a trust upon their death; this does not avoid probate. After assets named in the will go through the probate process, the court creates a trust. Because of this, the trust will always be under the control of the court. 

Sometimes people choose to do a testamentary trust over a revocable living trust because it seems “cheaper” upfront. However, the cost of probate court alone could render this untrue.

Conclusion

A properly established trust will maintain a grantor’s legacy while circumventing the time-consuming and often costly probate process. If you’re looking at the big picture, you can often save time, money, and mitigate family tension by establishing a trust.

Nevada carries the most advantageous trust laws in the U.S. when it comes to privacy, asset protection, and flexibility. Alliance Trust has many estate planning attorneys that may assist you in establishing or evaluating an estate plan that meets your needs now and for many generations. 

We are happy to assist you. We Are Nevada.

 

Selecting a Successor Trustee: Is a Family Member Really the Best Option For You?

Should You Choose a Corporate Trustee or Appoint Someone You Know?

When a family establishes a revocable trust, the grantor is, in many cases, the trustee as well. However, a revocable trust requires that the grantor appoint a successor trustee. The successor trustee is on standby until the acting trustee dies or becomes mentally incapacitated and is unable to manage the trust.

You may think you know whom you would choose as a successor trustee, but it’s not as simple as appointing a family member and calling it a day. The successor trustee has many essential functions that take up a lot of time and resources. If your family appoints this person, you must consider how other family members will view it and ensure there are no conflicts of interest.

The other option is to appoint a third-party corporate trustee as the successor trustee. Is one option better than the other? The answer is both yes and no, depending on your situation. Let’s dive into both options.

Appointing a Family Member as Successor Trustee

In many cases, families appoint a surviving spouse, child, trusted advisor, or friend as successor trustee. While this solution seems cost-effective and straightforward, there are considerations to be made and questions to ask:

  • Does the trustee have adequate time to devote to the trust?
  • Will the trustee be able to separate personal feelings and exercise sound judgment toward beneficiaries?
  • Will a surviving spouse be able to take on all trust management duties during the grieving process or while caring for an incapacitated spouse?
  • Can the trustee understand and analyze investments within the trust or possible investment opportunities?
  • Will there be tension or resentment among family members if this trustee is appointed?

Pros of Appointing a Family Member

  • Family members or close friends may not charge an administration fee for their role as successor trustee.
  • A family member understands the unique dynamics of the family, including long-standing feuds, substance abuse, etc.
  • A member of the family may view this duty as less of a burden and therefore put more effort into settling or managing the trust than a family friend.

Cons of Appointing a Family Member

  • It could create tension among siblings or other family members.
  • If a family member has no trust experience, they may accidentally abuse the trust and be liable for damages.
  • A family member may lack the time and knowledge necessary to execute the trust successfully.

Appointing a Corporate Trustee as Successor Trustee

A corporate trustee serving as successor trustee will undoubtedly charge a fee for their services; this alone can cause families to forgo that route. However, there are significant advantages to going the corporate trustee route that must be explored. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How complex is the trust, and how many assets will the successor trustee be responsible for?
  • Are there minor beneficiaries or other considerations that would cause the trust to continue after the death or incapacitation of the grantor?
  • Is there significant family tension that could necessitate a third-party trustee?

Pros of Appointing a Corporate Trustee

  • Avoid family tension that arises from choosing a family member as trustee.
  • A corporate trustee will handle any filings, investments, distributions, tax considerations, and more.
  • The corporate trustee handles all recordkeeping and preserves valuable assets to benefit future generations.

Cons of Appointing a Corporate Trustee

  • The trustee may not understand your individual family dynamics.
  • There are always fees associated with a corporate trustee.
  • A corporate trustee may be stricter in making distribution decisions than you’d like.

Can You Appoint Co-Trustees?

Yes, it is possible to appoint both a family member and a corporate entity as co-trustees. This is not the right option for every family as you will incur both trust administration fees and may need to pay the family member too. The family member will also still have a great deal of responsibility. However, if a family still wants personal involvement, but with the added benefit of an impartial third-party and trust management benefits, this could be a great option.

Putting it All Together

Ultimately, you can structure your trust and trustee selection the way you envision. Your family dynamic and trust assets will have a lot to do with the final choices you make. Whether you choose a family member, a corporate trustee, or take a blended approach, your choice of successor trustee should serve to benefit your family members.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada has years of experience as a corporate trustee and can answer any questions you have regarding the management of your trust.

Kaestner and Fielding: SCOTUS Implications Create Opportunities

Kaestner wins, Fielding Denied: What we can learn when analyzed together. 

On June 21, 2019, in North Carolina v. Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust, Docket No. 18–457, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that the residency of a beneficiary in a U.S. state alone was not sufficient nexus (connection) for a state to tax the undistributed net income of a trust. 

Many commentators have written about the case and its implications. However,  SCOTUS declining the writ of certiorari to Minnesota’s Fielding case right after deciding on Kaestner should not be overlooked.

Declining to Hear Fielding

By refusing to grant a writ of certiorari in Fielding, et al. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 916 N.W.2d 323 (Minn. 2018), the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Fielding remains. It is still unconstitutional to tax a trust solely based on grantor residency at the time the trust became irrevocable.

As applied to the Fielding trusts, the nexus between the state and the trust is not substantial enough to warrant state taxation. 

Two States Impact Our Entire Country

While some analysts believe the Kaestner decision was relatively narrow, the implications of both cases combined are broad, likely resulting in trust taxation changes in North Carolina and Minnesota. However, the implications extend to many other states limiting a state’s ability to tax undistributed income held within trusts.

It’s unlikely that SCOTUS will entertain another trust taxation case anytime soon. It’s now up to the state courts to interpret Kaestner and make the appropriate amendments to their laws.

North Carolina and Minnesota and states with similar tax laws have many estate planning opportunities even before states’ legislatures act.

But where will the lines be drawn? 

Comparing Kaestner and Fielding

First, let’s take a look at the facts in the two cases. Kaestner and Fielding have distinctly different fact patterns, as shown below.

  Kaestner Fielding
Residence of the Grantor New York Minnesota
Trustee Not a North Carolina resident Not Minnesota residents
Trust law New York Minnesota
Trustee physical presence None in North Carolina None in Minnesota
Beneficiaries North Carolina Three of the four beneficiaries lived outside of Minnesota
Trust Documents and records New York Colorado
Trust Established in New York Minnesota
Asset Custody Massachusetts Outside of Minnesota
Direct in-state investments None in North Carolina Included an MN S Corp
Physical Property None in North Carolina None in Minnesota
Pre-case Taxation: Only while a beneficiary was an N.C. resident If established as a resident trust, the trust would have been taxed in Minnesota for its entire existence

 

Broad or Narrow Implications? You Decide.

In Kaestner, the only connection to North Carolina is the beneficiary’s residence in the state. SCOTUS ruled that having a beneficiary in the state was not sufficient to tax the trust.

In the Fielding case, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that despite additional connections there was not sufficient nexus to permit Minnesota to tax the undistributed net income of a trust.

The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Kaestner was decided somewhat narrowly.

The Court relied on three key facts concerning the beneficiary in North Carolina:

“First, the beneficiaries did not receive any income from the Trust during the years in question. Second, they had no right to demand Trust income or otherwise control, possess, or enjoy the Trust assets in the tax years at issue. Third, they also could not count on necessarily receiving any specific amount of income from the Trust in the future.”

It is not entirely clear how SCOTUS might decide a case where the beneficiary received some distributions from a trust. It’s also unclear what a case decision would be if it had trust terms that permitted more control over the trust. It’s unknown whether the beneficiary would receive some or all of the corpus from the trust in the future.

The Kaestner decision does not address whether a beneficiary’s ability to assign a potential interest in the income from a trust would afford that beneficiary sufficient control or possession over the trust. It also does not address whether the beneficiaries were guarenteed to receive funds (or enjoyment of the property) in the future to justify North Carolina’s taxation based solely on the beneficiary’s in-state residence. 

Finally, SCOTUS did not consider the trust’s broader argument that the trustee’s contacts alone determine the state’s power over the trust.

In contrast, declining the Fielding writ and allowing the Minnesota Supreme Court decision to stand suggests that the location of the trustee (not the location of the grantor) is most relevant in determining the domicile of a trust.

Will Minnesota follow Michigan?

Bill Lunka, the founder of SALT Partners, a state and local tax consulting firm in Minneapolis, said:

 “Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of the Fielding case, it is a good time for trustees and their advisors to consider filing claims for refund for those trusts that had Minnesota residents at the time the trust became irrevocable. 

There may also be opportunities to file claims for refunds in North Carolina and other states provided that the beneficiaries are similarly situated to the beneficiaries in the Kaestner case. The combination of the Kaestner and Fielding decisions suggest that the location of the trustee will be most relevant in determining where a trust is domiciled.”

Mr. Lunka further noted, “It is possible that Minnesota will follow, at least for now, Michigan’s lead on using administrative, rather than legislative, tools to change trust taxation. Given the current environment in the Minnesota Legislature where the Democrats control the House of Representatives (and the governor’s office), and the Republicans control the Senate, it may not be easy for the Minnesota Department of Revenue to get legislation passed to change the definition of a resident trust. 

Because Fielding found that the Minnesota definition of resident trust was unconstitutional only as applied to the Fielding trusts, the definition currently in Minnesota law still stands because the Minnesota Supreme Court did rule that the definition facially violated the Due Process Clause. 

Therefore, the Minnesota Department of Revenue can continue to apply the definition of a resident trust in Minnesota for other taxpayers. Of course, the Department is likely to continue to receive claims for refund for those trust that irrevocable while the grantor was a Minnesota resident, and they will review those on a case-by-case basis until legislation can be passed, or then issue guidance.”

The Current Trust Climate According to Michael Redden of Redden Law

Trusts are becoming more like corporations and the implications of that, such as taxes, must be considered. Michael Redden of Redden Law provides the following insight:

“Trusts are going to be treated more like corporations now. Corporations, though fictional, are treated like people and have their own rights. The trust and estates in our country have not been discussed in this context much until recently. For corporations, there are many wide implications. The most obvious implication for trusts is for taxation. 

Here, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that trusts have the same rights as individuals. A state must be able to get personal jurisdiction over an individual to tax that person or exercise any power over them. The same is now true for a trust. I predict that we will continue to explore how the personhood of trusts affect other policies in the future. This is especially true since dynastic trust planning is becoming more and more common.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Kaestner, alluded to the Fielding case when it limited its opinion. The Court likely sees that there are many more circumstances that might need review. By limiting the opinion, the Court likely expects to hear more about these situations. The Minnesota law is different than North Carolina’s. 

By focusing so much on the grantor, it creates many more factual situations that are not as clear cut at Kaestner. In short, it is prone to more grey areas. I agree that the Court should have declined to hear the case. The Minnesota Supreme Court used the same line of analysis when it decided Fielding. The result is one that the Court would likely have upheld.

For now, all taxpayers and their advisors and lawyers should consider how a trust that is sitused in Nevada, South Dakota, or another taxpayer-friendly jurisdiction might help. The worst case scenario is that you will pay taxes at the same rate that you pay now. The best case is that you might end up with a much lower tax burden in the future. It is also very attractive since these same jurisdictions also have special trusts for asset protection.”

 

Estate Planning Strategies Practitioners Should Consider

Those filing refunds for applicable trusts with Minnesota grantors or North Carolina beneficiaries should consult their advisors. It’s important to discuss whether a case could be due refunds for relevant tax years.

It will be interesting to see if taxpayers in other states will use these precedents to challenge their statutes.

Decanting Trusts

For existing trusts, practitioners should look for decanting opportunities to states like Nevada, that have no income tax. Note that Nevada trust laws may provide additional benefits for asset protection and dynasty provisions as well.

Create Your Own Facts

Residents in states outside of Minnesota and North Carolina will benefit from careful planning by structuring around the rulings in Kaestner and Fielding.

Rulings in both cases focus on two key factors: the importance of the trustee’s domicile and not having physical property in the trust.

Develop Flexibility

You can build flexibility, including trust protectors, into a trust structure, even if the facts or laws will change in the future. However, practitioners should be careful. It’s possible to give too much power to an in-state trust protector and create a nexus to state taxation.

Carefully Select Trustees

Pick your trustee carefully! A trustee’s connections to your state can tip the scales in the eyes of the revenue authorities.

Practitioners should consider out-of-state trust companies as part of their process. It’s crucial to be mindful of out-of-state companies that have a significant presence in your state too.

Connections to the state may be scrutinized by state taxation authorities to meet “minimum connection” standards and tax the trust.

SCOTUS may take on another case in the future, which would clarify what connections with a state are necessary before a state can tax a trust. Until then, it’s best to be careful.

Employ Discretionary Trusts

The Kaestner decision was very explicit in favoring discretionary trusts. Practitioners should include a spendthrift clause, which prevents a beneficiary from assigning their interest, in their trust documents.

Conclusion

While Minnesota and North Carolina will need to redo trust taxation codes to comply with the two rulings, there are implications and opportunities in most states. We anticipate a lively dialogue in Minnesota and North Carolina governments to create respective new trust taxation structures.

Will other state tax codes be challenged by new precedents set in Kaestner and Fielding? Our guess is yes. It’s also likely that many states will experience a large volume of refund claims filed in light of the Kaestner decision.

While those challenges and discussions are occurring, we would encourage practitioners to evaluate their existing trust structures carefully. The imminent advantages (beyond the current benefits) of utilizing out-of-state trust structures are likely ideal for many clients. 

Why You Need to Establish a Trust Versus a Will: Protect Both Your Assets and Your Privacy

Have a will, but don’t think you need a trust? You may want to think again.

It’s a misconception that trusts are only for the ultra-wealthy. For many people, a trust should be an essential part of a sound and smart financial strategy. If you don’t think you need a trust, here are a few examples of why you might:

  • You want your money and assets equally distributed to your heirs.
  • You want your estate to go to your biological children and not your step-children.
  • Ensure higher education paid for before asset distribution.
  • Mitigate estate taxes for your family.
  • Protect your assets from your creditors or the creditors of your heirs.
  • More privacy surrounding your money and assets.

These are just a few examples. The list could go on and on.

Bottom line: if you have assets such as investments, a home, or other property such as a boat or vacation home and you want to avoid additional taxes and specify who inherits your assets, when they inherit, and how, you need a trust.

The Benefits of a Trust

Aside from detailing the fate of your assets, trusts have many specific benefits to both you and your beneficiaries.

Save Time and Money by Avoiding Probate

If you have a will but not a trust, your assets will go through the public process of probate. Upon your death, all of your assets will go into probate, and the court proves that your will is valid.

Typical Probate Process

  • The court inventories your property and assets;
  • The court then pays outstanding taxes and debts;
  • The court assesses your probate tax;
  • The court distributes the assets to the wishes of your will or by state law if you do not have a will in place or you did not correctly draft your will. Your estate plan should be reviewed regularly as estate laws evolve. Alliance can refer you to attorneys that will assist you.

The probate process can take up to a year, and in the meantime, your family will be without their inheritances. Sometimes the court allows some of your estate to be distributed during probate, but often your family is left waiting.

YOU Control Distribution

A trust allows you to detail exactly how, when, and to whom you’d like your assets distributed. You can choose to have your assets distributed over time or in one sum and even how you want the assets utilized. For example, you can specify that the money is only for the use of living expenses such as food and housing.

Controlling distribution can be highly effective in situations where you are unsure about how your beneficiaries will handle receiving a large sum of money. Often, grantors want to be certain bad decisions don’t squander their wealth.

A Trust is Difficult to Contest

While a will is easy to challenge, a trust is not. If you fear that someone will be unhappy with your decisions and wish to challenge the distribution of assets, a trust is a much safer option.

There are two ways to challenge a trust, both requiring significant proof:

  1. The grantor was not in the right mental state when setting up the trust.
  2. The grantor was under “undue influence” when drafting the trust and did so under someone else’s influence.

Even with these potential challenges, a trust is much more likely to withstand contest than a will.

Cover Educational Costs

Many grantors want to be sure that educational costs for their beneficiaries are covered first before the distribution of assets. You can specify whether each child should get the same amount after education costs, or whether distribution should be contingent on education costs.

An educational trust fund provides a lot of flexibility and control for a beneficiary to ensure their educational goals for their children are met even after their death.

Specify the Division of Property

Some assets are more difficult to divide than others, such as real estate or other personal property like boats or cars. A trust helps make these things easier to divide by allowing the grantor to specify precisely how to transfer the property upon their death.

A grantor can choose who gets what property, whether they can sell the property and if so, how they should sell the property and divide the proceeds. The trust can provide equal access to the property for each beneficiary or even allow them to buy each other out if they wish.

Avoid (or at Least Reduce) Estate Taxes

Assets placed into a trust are not subject to estate taxes. A trust gives grantors the ability to give tax-free gifts from the estate to their children up to the annual exclusion. The annual exclusion states that grantors can give gifts up to a certain dollar amount annually without incurring taxes.

Estate taxes only apply to estates worth $1 million or more, so they don’t apply to most. You do, however, need to be sure you understand the full value of your estate. Remember to factor in the value of your home and any other assets, not just your liquid assets and investments.

Enjoy More Privacy

As we mentioned earlier, if your estate is in a will and goes into probate, it is a public process. With a trust, your assets remain private. While a public record is sometimes necessary, it is not common. In many cases, you can find ways to work around disclosing records publically.

Keep Family Harmony Intact

After the death of a family member, there is grief and many emotions involved. A trust is an easy and straightforward way to ensure that emotional factors don’t play a part in the distribution of assets.

It can be easy for family feuds to arise during the division of an estate. A trust can be customized to precisely specify what each heir will inherit, leaving nothing to be argued over. A trust can even ensure that only the beneficiary has access to their inheritance and exclude spouses, step-children, or anyone else a grantor desires.

Who controls the trust? You do! Or a trusted family member, friend, or independent corporate trustee whom you appoint. Unlike a will, you control every aspect of a trust before and after your death to ensure your family is immediately protected.

Nevada carries the most advantageous privacy and asset protection laws in the U.S. You do not have to live in Nevada to take advantage of Nevada’s trust jurisdiction. Alliance Trust Company of Nevada has vast experience with both domestic and international complex estate planning and taxation strategies. Moreover, Alliance had a significant network of Nevada attorneys, advisors, and CPAs that we can refer you to. Do not hesitate to reach out to learn more about what Nevada can do for you!

Third Annual STEP Alpine Conference January 17 & 18, 2019 Interlaken, SUI

STEP Alpine 2019 Sessions Recap

A well-attended and lively STEP Alpine Conference recently wrapped up at the Congress Center, Kursall, in Interlaken, Switzerland. Both Martine Rhoda, Director of European Development, and Greg Crawford, President of Alliance Trust Company of Nevada, attended the two-day event.

STEP Alpine Highlights

Opening Keynote

After the opening remarks and welcoming the Keynote speaker, Elhad As Sy, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies took the stage.

The Secretary-General reminded us all that global problems are much harder to solve in a fractured world, and that no one is truly isolated from global issues.

Those unfortunate enough to be born in situations (and regions or countries) are suffering misfortune that is beyond their control. What they want is what we all want–and should collectively strive for–freedom from disease and stability and peace.

These very basic desires are commonalities of humanity. The Secretary-General thanked the audience and those benefactors that the professionals in the audience represent for the continued support of these efforts.

It was an inspiring beginning to the two-day affair.

Compliance and Privacy, Still Prevailing Themes

The theme of the conference was two sides of the same coin. Both what is new and what is consistent in our industry. Day one focused on the “new,” the continued increasing regulatory and compliance requirements. Day two focused on the original goals of the field: providing valuable services to clients.

The first industry-focused presentation began with three presenters and a panel discussion from David Russell, Filipino Noseda, and Count Francis von Seilern-Aspang.

It was noted that the treatment of trusts, assets and cross-border families are now quite inconsistent with several other trends towards protecting information and personal privacy in the EU region.

GDPR is almost 100% inconsistent with the CRS, and yet seems to be okay because of “fiscal voyeurism” practiced by the media and certain tax authorities. Recent rulings by the European Court of Justice appear to support a fundamental right to privacy. The audience noted the hypocrisy that elected officials claim a right to privacy for themselves, but not for commoners.

Budgeting Challenges Governments

The government budget problems facing many of the developed countries may be at the root of the issue. Governments are not generally pursuing growth strategies and instead are appealing to voter frustration and populist uprisings. The political will to debate economic policies is minimal when it is much easier and more popular to scapegoat particular classes of people for political gain (e.g., immigrants, the upper-class).

Thus, in this environment, selective “transparency” for certain types of people–the wealthy–is now politically expedient.

The new level and detail of information gathered by multiple firms and government agencies are staggering and often redundant. Information is the new oil in the Odeon economy, and information has become extremely valuable. It is a matter of time before various databases are hacked, or the information gathered is sold into the black market (see the recent sale of personal information by Argentinian tax authorities).

While the GDPR has significant penalties for companies which fail to protect their data, there are no such penalties for governments.

Yet, despite all of this information being gathered in the name of transparency, it is not clear that this will lead to higher tax compliance. The analysis of the U.S.A.’s FATCA efforts and initial data coming from the OECD suggest that the amounts of levels of tax evasion ballyhooed to get both FATCA and the CRS passed were “exaggerated’” to put it mildly.

Looking Ahead: Trust Structures

So, what then does the future hold? Trusts have been in place for 1,000 or more years, and continue to be needed by families at all levels of wealth. Competence, expertise, professionalism, structure, and wisdom are not a given in all families and can be most effectively brought to the table or bolstered in the form of a trust structure.

Trust structures are needed now more than ever. They can provide solutions and continuity for the families who need them. Those that continue to advise families on how to help solve these age-old problems will continue to be in demand.

Combating Tax Fraud In the U.K.

The next presentation, “Data Exchange: Its Fate and Its Risks” began after lunch. Tessa Lorimer (Withers, U.K., Consultant) notes that the U.K. has dramatically increased its tax investigation capabilities now that it receives information pursuant to the Common Reporting Standards (CRS).

We reached out to Lorimer for more insight:

“The information will give Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reasonable grounds to suspect tax fraud and thereby access the international criminal treaties. The criminal treaties allow HMRC to send a Letter of Request to foreign jurisdictions requesting the use of coercive powers to have evidence remitted to the U.K. suspects located and extradited in the U.K. to stand trial and assets are restrained and confiscated abroad.

“Recent U.K. legislation has dramatically increased both criminal and civil penalties for tax fraud in anticipation of the aggressive international tax investigations of the future.”

David Walbank, QC, described the significantly increased risk to people who become subject to a CRS Criminal Investigation. Most significantly, the Criminal Finances Act of 2017 reverses the burden of proof in such cases. Additionally, the evidentiary trends regarding search and seizure are tending to give more power to the authorities. These powers now border on draconian “Unexplained Wealth Orders,” and he expects it authorizes to launch high-profile, headline-grabbing cases in the future.

Securing Enterprise Data

The presentation concluded with some practical insights into how to secure enterprise data from Dr. Cristian Zamfir, COO of Cyberhaven. We reached out to Dr. Zamfir for insight, and he stated, “Data is now the common denominator of most corporate risks. The foundation for managing these risks is to discover where sensitive data is, who is accessing it, and how it is processed: in other words “data flow mapping,” which is now done manually. The answer to modern risk management in the context of GDPR and other recent compliance legislation is to automate the data flow mapping process.”

Visit Cyberhaven to learn more.

New Regulatory Developments in 2020

The next presentation covered “New Developments On the Regulatory Front” and began with an update on new Swiss Trustee regulations coming into effect in 2020. David Wilson, partner at Schellenberg Wittmer, noted that 2020 is designed to be a transition period for Swiss trustees, who have not been licensed to date.

Wilson comments that “Trustees’ anti-money laundering policies remain but, going forward, their implementation will be supervised by Supervisory Organizations, that will replace the existing self-regulatory authorities.”

Wilson’s session garnered a lot of attention as his audience took extensive notes.

Global Regulatory Approaches

Richard Grasby then contrasted different types of regulatory approaches to the industry from jurisdictions around the globe. Regulators range from lighter approaches that are really just focused on AML policies, to large scope requirements that delve into the quality of trust operations and depth and experience of personnel.

Private Trust Companies, called Family Trust Companies in Nevada (NRS 669A), were raised as a possible structure for some as they can in some instances be exempt from pending Swiss registration requirements. Business and family ties are vital factors to consider for a Private Trust Company, which can be likened loosely to a single family office.

Fabianne De Vos Burchart cautioned that PTCs must be run professionally, or he fears that many will be challenged in the future for being little more than an elaborate nominee agreement.

Blockchain as a Trust Asset Worldwide

The final presentation of day one is a very popular topic at recent STEP Conferences around the world, Blockchain.

Philipp Buchel discussed the original benefits of bitcoin and the blockchain, a no Third-party, low fee currency, and transfer network. Unlike traditional assets, there could initially be no freezing or censorship. The blockchain itself is simply a ledger/database structure to prevent docile-spending.

How Blockchain Laws Are Evolving

But the laws are evolving differently in different countries regarding property rights in this new class of asset. In the U.K. the law is developing so that the coin holder is the owner, while in the U.S.A. courts are taking the position that the private key or code that unlocks the coin(s) is the legal owner. Regardless, storage is the most critical issue.

To date, trustees have been unwilling to hold the private keys to these assets. Bitcoin and other currencies titled to trusts are being done via LLCs, or special purpose trusts to limit trustee liability. However, it is clear that clients will need better answers going forward than the current trust company solutions.

The day concluded by noting that these are no longer just issues for early adopters or technology geeks; companies such as the shipping company Maersk which recently shifted its container procurement and management system to the blockchain are expecting to save hundreds of millions of Euros a year as a result.

After a terrific cocktail hour and dinner sponsored by Schellenberg Wittmer, the 300+ attendees turned in for the evening. Special congratulations go out to the STEP Swiss and Liechtenstein Federation Student Award winners who were recognized during dinner.

Day Two – Serving Client Needs

Day Two shifted the theme of the conference from regulation and compliance to serving client needs into the future.

Uncovering the Truth About Lost Family Fortunes

The first day two presentation, “The Next Generation: Challenges and Opportunities” covered a phenomenon that cuts across all societies and commonality of humanity discussed at the conference open by the Supreme General- it is the sad but simple fact that by the fourth generation, most family fortunes have been lost or squandered.

The psychology of attachment between a parent and a child was discussed in the context of tremendously busy, international families. Communication in these situations is commonly low, and children are patronized for too long.

A classic case study of an Asian family was discussed, as well as the fact that many financially successful parents just assume that their children will have the same passion and interest in the family enterprises that they do. As practitioners, we know this is often not the case. Parents who are strong role models need to allow children to find their own path.

It was a very skilled and diversified panel, with Her Supreme Highness Therese of Liechtenstein, Joshua Seth Rubenstein of Katten Muchin in New York and Dr. Marina Walter, MD from the University of Geneva.

We had to step out for networking meetings during the next two presentations which covered the mental capacity of aging clients and the special needs of globetrotting families.

The Swiss-U.K. Axis

The final presentation before lunch was titled the “Swiss-U.K. Axis.” It is often said that the U.S. and the U.K. have a historic “special relationship,” but there is also one between the Island of the U.K., and the island of stability in continental Europe, Switzerland.

Jane Owen, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein noted that there are over 150 flights from various U.K. airports to airports in Switzerland each and every day. Much of the discussion focused on what the U.K. could learn from Switzerland in advance of Brexit while noting much remains uncertain.

Global News

After lunch, the agenda continued with “News from Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the rest of the World.”

Joshua Rubinstein led off the discussion with an update on the U.S.A. tax law changes, and how it helps business owners. Litigation trends regarding trust issues in the U.S.A. are also increasing, mainly as age and dynasty trusts interplay with inheritance issues and expectations.

Modern relationships and 2nd and 3rd marriages only increase potential family friction and legal contests. It was also noted that the legal erosion of attorney-client privilege is eroding in the U.S. as well, but not to the same degree as other jurisdictions.

One important point – do not use a work email address to correspond on personal litigation matters. Create a personal email account specific to the case and only use it for sensitive correspondence to better protect privileged documents.

New Developments Worldwide

The rest of the world came next, with David Russell updating the conference on new developments in the Middle East. Jurisdictions there have taken different approaches to adopt model legislation, noting that Dubai has adopted a style of the American Uniform Trust Code.

There was actually a technical glitch in this section, so if you would like a copy of the slides or to discuss these sections further, please let us know.

Liechtenstein and Switzerland Updates

Saving the best for last, the update on Liechtenstein and Switzerland came next. Patrick Brunhart noted that this year is the 300th Anniversary of the Principality and its reputation continues to improve around the globe. The country will continue to be a small but important financial center in the future.

Switzerland will continue to be a jurisdiction offering top-end solutions to sophisticated clients. The country can never become a low-cost “factory” solution provider, as the cost of doing business here is simply too high to compete in that segment of the marketplace.

Influencing the Debate – Swiss Trust Laws and Regulations

The last presentation of the day blended many of the themes of the first two days and sparked a lively and important discussion to wrap up the conference. The presentation title was “The Great New Questions for Trustees – Your Chance to Influence the Debate.”

A discussion of the new regulations facing Swiss Trustees began the presentation, reviewing some of the highlights of the discussion from the day before.

The prospect of specific Swiss trust laws was discussed, and in classic Swiss fashion, an impromptu vote was held. The audience generally felt that the regulation of trustees was a good development, while they were less enthusiastic about new Swiss trust statues. The overall goals and purpose of regulations were also discussed in the context of protecting clients from bad actors in the world of trusts, and the practitioners in the room from being tainted by bad actors as well.

Looking Forward to STEP Alpine 2020

With that, the Third Annual STEP Alpine Conference concluded. The Fourth Annual STEP Alpine Conference is tentatively scheduled for the same location on January 16 & 17, 2020. STEP should confirm this in the weeks to come, and we at Alliance Trust Company of Nevada look forward to seeing you there!

If you would like to discuss the conference details further, or how Nevada trust structures can benefit your clients, please contact Martine Rhoda in Geneva at (add cell phone and email).

Using NING Trusts to Significantly Reduce State Income Tax Liabilities

Why Wealthy Families are Choosing to Shift Their Wealth to the Tax Favored State of Nevada

The state of Nevada is considered a tax-favored environment, allowing maximum tax protection over trusts and estates. That’s just one of the reasons why more and more people are choosing Nevada as to establish their trusts.

The “NING” trust or Nevada Incomplete-gift Non-Grantor trust reduces state income tax liabilities and simultaneously provides asset protection benefits.

For people with substantial income, assets or large capital gains who could generate significant Federal and state income tax shifting a trust from its current state to a state with more favorable tax laws, such as Nevada, could create significant income tax savings.

While moving to Nevada would allow someone to take advantage of these benefits, relocating family is often not an option. However, by establishing a NING and transferring assets from the existing trust into the NING, the trust will only face Federal capital gains taxes.

Non-Grantor vs. Grantor Trusts

Trusts are set up as either grantor or non-grantor, and it’s important to understand the difference.

Grantor trusts expose the creator of the trust to the taxes incurred by the trust. Non-grantor trusts are set up as their own entities incurring all taxes at the trust level instead of passing them on to the owner of the trust.

Things get murky because every state has its own taxation rules and definitions about which trusts should be considered a resident.

For example, to take advantage of a NING or Nevada’s favorable tax laws in general, a non-grantor trust with a Nevada trustee should be established. By establishing a non-grantor trust in Nevada and appointing a Nevada trustee you can be sure that you’ll minimize or completely eliminate taxes from your state of residence.

A New Aggressive Strategy for Substantial Gains

If a substantial gain is on the horizon, wealthy families can take advantage of ING trusts to adopt a more aggressive tax strategy. ING’s help reduce state income tax at the trust level by establishing it one or more years before a large gain becomes available.

One word of caution, there are specific steps you should follow to ensure that your strategy is not viewed as tax evasion, it’s always best to employ professional guidance to understand how to establish your ING ethically.

Structuring a NING for Maximum Benefit

Since the purpose of establishing a NING trust is to avoid additional taxing, it’s important to properly structure the trust to avoid gift tax. Proper structuring also ensures that the trust really is taxed in Nevada instead of the settlor’s home state.

Remember that NING stands for Nevada Incomplete-Gift Non-Grantor Trust, so when assets are transferred to the trust, it must be in the form of an “incomplete gift.”

Transferring assets as an “incomplete gift” allows the owner of the trust to include your investments in your estate without needing to file a Form 709 gift tax return.

NING Trusts vs. DING Trusts

The DING Trust did come before the NING trust, so one may wonder which is the better situs for a trust, Nevada or Delaware?

While both states allow settlors to appoint a trustee for their trust and take advantage of favorable tax laws, several Delaware rulings have allowed divorcing spouses and creditors to gain access to an asset protection trust. Nevada has never allowed such access in rulings and therefore has more iron clad protection than any other state.

How the Other States Feel About ING Trusts

It’s no surprise that other states aren’t happy about non-grantor trusts and their tax-avoidance benefits, some have even gone as far as banning such trusts.

While both Delaware and Nevada have successfully deflected attempts by other states to tax grantors, that likely won’t stop states from attempting to gain access whenever they can.

However, several statutes in the state of Nevada prove that the state values and protects trusts and estates which are established there and is the safest bet when choosing where to create an ING trust.

To learn more about establishing a NING, please contact Alliance Trust Company.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada in The Economist

The Economist

Typically well-reasoned and published since 1843, many believe that the Economist is the finest English-print magazine in the world.  The magazine tackles complex global issues with a balance and perspective that only a 170+ year history can provide.  That is why, in the context of the media fury surrounding the “Panama Papers,” that the Economist’s suggestion to publish individual global tax returns (April 9th edition) deserved to be publically questioned.  To the credit of the publication, Gregory Crawford’s letter to the Editor is published in the April 30th print edition.  In the letter, the President of Alliance Trust argues that no benefit will come from such a disclosure plan or the OCED’s related “Common Reporting Standards.”  The impact of sharing detailed personal financial information with rogue governments around the world will not increase U.S. tax revenues by a cent.  In fact, the only meaningful outcome of the proposals is to violate basic personal privacy significantly increase the physical and financial risk to law-abiding citizens and their families around the world.

The Government of Kazakhstan knows my retirement account balance?

Nytimes_hq

The New York Times “Room for Debate” opinion pages recently asked Gregory Crawford, The President of Alliance Trust Company in Reno to comment on the Panama Papers and the advantages of and lawful usages of shell companies.  In this piece, Greg notes that the vast majority of these companies are used legally, providing a layer of security and privacy for international families in an increasingly dangerous world.

The interest of non-US citizens using foreign grantor trusts in Nevada is increasing dramatically.  Many countries are now recklessly sharing highly-sensitive and otherwise confidential individual financial information with rogue governments around the world under the OCED’s “Common Reporting Standards.” This program, which thankfully the United States is not participating in, gathers and automatically exchanges individual  names, addresses, tax identification numbers, and financial account balances with the governments of Azerbaijan, Cameroon, China, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Tunisia, and Uganda, to name a few.  Where the information might go from there, no one knows.   Many of these countries have Horrific human rights records and serious corruption issues.  Automatically sharing this data will undoubtedly expose law-abiding individuals to the risk of extortion, kidnapping or worse.  The United States should remain proudly “non-compliant” with the CRS and its efforts to violate personal privacy.

it is worth noting that the State of Nevada offers excellent privacy provisions when establishing business entities such as LLCs, and there are options for the US and non-US citizens to keep their financial affairs private in trust.  Please contact Alliance Trust for more information at 775-297-4000.

 

Alliance Presentations in San Diego – Recap of the Gathering

Gathering 5

Last month Alliance Trust presented at the Southern California Institute’s annual “Gathering” of elite advisors from around the country in San Diego.  The topics of the two-day seminar included a panel debating the best family trust jurisdictions, and various methods and strategies to minimize and reduce estate, state and federal income taxes.  Advisors discussed asset protection trusts and other Nevada trust options, with case studies on how they work in practice.  As a Nevada Trust Company, Alliance Trust added insight and expertise on these topics from the perspective of a trustee.  Nevada is considered to have the best trust laws in the country, providing families valuable asset protection, flexibility for planning options and tax minimization for generations.  for more information on Nevada Trusts, please call Greg Crawford at Alliance Trust in Reno at 775-297-4684.

Why Sand Hill Road Uses Nevada Trust Strategies

sand hill road sign

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada spends significant time in Silicon Valley.  Our clients range from early stage Angel investors, the founders of many fast-growing technology firms, and the partners of some of the most prestigious venture capital firms in the world.  Why are so many people connected with Sand Hill Road using Nevada Trust strategies?  In a word: Flexibility.

Nevada offers exclusive options within its trust and estate laws, and you don’t have to be a Nevada resident to establish and benefit from a Nevada Trust for generations to come.

Simply put, Nevada offers flexibility around common asset protection, tax-minimization, and dynasty provisions that have many around the country recommending Nevada as the best state in the country for trusts.  Even Business Week magazine recently took notice, putting Reno on the cover for its trust and estates activity.

Interested in learning more?  Call Greg Crawford, President of Alliance Trust in Reno at 775-297-4684.

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