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Step up Basis at Death Revocable Trust
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Step-up Basis at Death for Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

A step-up in basis refers to the appraisal of appreciated assets’ value in a trust to inform taxation upon inheritance. Usually, what is considered for tax is the highest market value of the assets in the trust at the time of inheritance.

If you inherited a piece of real estate from your father, who inherited it from your grandfather, by the time, it’s passed to you; it may have increased in price significantly. The property gets a step-up in basis after your father passes away so that you have fewer capital gains tax obligations.

The Step-Up Provision of Revocable Trusts after death

Whether the assets are houses, money, or stocks, step up in basis at death revocable trust makes a big difference in the beneficiary’s tax obligations at the grantor’s death. If this provision is not invoked, the beneficiary’s inherited assets will amass heavy tax burdens. 

Suppose Jake’s father inherited 1000 shares in 1980 that were trading at $100 a share. Following several stock splits, the holdings grew into 8000 shares, trading at $500 apiece, a gain of $3,900,000. At the time of Jake’s inheritance, if there is no step-up and using the 20% tax rate, a $780000 tax liability would be incurred. By contrast, there’d be no tax liability with the tax-free step-up provision if Jake sells these shares immediately after inheritance. 

As seen in the above example, the step-up basis reflects the change in the value of inheritance assets. For the shares bought at $100, if they trade at $500 when a beneficiary inherits them, they get a step up in basis (value) such that taxation is based on the difference between the $500 market price and the original. 

Protecting Assets from Double Taxation 

The step-up in basis tax provision protects the asset in a revocable trust from heavy taxation. Grantors and trustees can take advantage of this provision to reduce or eliminate capital gains taxes. 

The assets in a revocable trust appreciate and provide the grantor with a consistent income stream in their lifetime. Upon the grantor’s death, the heirs get to take advantage of the appreciation in the value of the assets because they are taxed on the step-up value difference instead of the original cost, making it possible to avoid taxation.

Reducing Compliance Requirements  

On basis, step-up reduces compliance costs and requirements for beneficiaries because tracking the cost basis of assets inherited over many generations can be problematic. This provision can also protect beneficiaries from paying estate taxes on assets put in trust many years ago-for the excuse that there isn’t an accurate model for estimating their original cost. 

With a step-up basis in place, the beneficiaries get to avoid estate and capital gains tax if they sell assets in the trust shortly after inheriting them. If they hold onto the assets and sell in the future, capital gains taxes would be postponed to when they sell the assets, and it would be computed on a stepped-up basis at the tax rate of that time. As a tax avoidance strategy, the beneficiary can keep the trust assets, continue receiving income, and then pass the assets to a new heir.

Do irrevocable trusts get a step up in basis at death?

In a grantor trust, even though the trust property is removed from the donor’s taxable estate for the estate tax, the trust is still treated as the grantor’s for income tax purposes. Instead of a tax-free basis step-up at death, a carryover basis applies. 

Beneficiaries in an irrevocable trust can put off this tax liability until their death. The tax would be due when the assets in the trust get transferred to a new heir. Under a carryover basis, all appreciation in the value of the assets from the time the trust was set up is taxable. 

Tax matters are an essential component of trusts and wills. A trust attorney can help trustees and beneficiaries understand trust tax obligations and provisions. It would be best to have assistance and advice in filing and compliance and representation when discussing disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, IRS.

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What are some reasons a family trust can be contested?

A Family Trust, which includes a revocable and irrevocable Trusts are contestable. When the Successor Trustee has taken over, there is an allotted time that beneficiaries have to contest the Trust. Make sure you are within your time limits to fight the Trust. A Trust Attorney can help you, at a minimum, understand your next few steps. It’s highly advisable to be “reasonable” throughout the process to ensure you stay on the right side of the courts. 

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