January is National Mentoring Month: Three Creative Ways to Use the Estate Planning Process to Be a Mentor

From Iron Man and Spiderman to the relationship between Hopper and Elle in Stranger Things, the value and importance of mentor relationships is everywhere we look. And this month, as we celebrate National Mentoring Month, we at Strauss Attorneys encourage you to become a mentor to the people in your life who have less life experience, whether they are your children or other loved ones. Mentors can have a huge positive impact on a young person’s life by sharing the wisdom, knowledge, and experience they have gained to help their mentee develop skills and goals that will enable them to succeed in life.

What does mentoring have to do with estate planning? You may think that estate planning is only relevant when a person dies or is preparing to pass on their money and property upon their death. However, estate planning can also involve strategies you implement during your lifetime and provides a great mentoring opportunity. Here are three ways you can use estate planning to guide your younger loved ones toward a more successful life:

(1) Give small gifts during your life to help your mentee reach a goal. First, help your mentee learn why setting goals is important and how to set goals for their own life. For example, if your mentee would like to start a business or pay for college, you could assist them in creating a bank or investment account to save money for that purpose. You could use gifts to create an incentive for them to deposit money regularly in that account by contributing a certain amount, perhaps fifty cents, for every dollar they deposit. Or, if they would like to contribute to a charitable organization that is important to them, you could encourage them by providing a matching gift for every contribution they make. By helping them reach these goals themselves instead of merely giving them all of the money needed to achieve them, they will learn valuable lessons. You can further facilitate their success by sharing life lessons you learned when you tried to achieve similar goals.

(2) Educate your mentee about a particular item that you plan for them to inherit one day. For example, if you have a family cabin that you plan to pass on to your son and daughter, document all of the steps needed to maintain it and create a schedule for who will fulfill those chores on a regular basis. If you and your sibling have been in charge of taking care of the cabin, you can share the knowledge and experience you have gained over the years about the best ways to work together to care for the property. In addition to providing information about the nuts and bolts of maintaining the cabin, you can share stories and memories about your own experiences there to communicate why it means so much to you and why you want them to have those same positive experiences in their lives.

(3) Teach your mentee about a skill you have developed and believe is important. Perhaps your mother or father taught you important lessons about how to save money or contribute to good causes. You can pass these same lessons on to the next generation as well. If you learned money management skills that have enabled you to build a sizable estate and allowed you to benefit your family and others, invest time in teaching those skills to your younger loved ones. Similarly, if you have discovered methods for determining whether a charity is being run responsibly and is a worthy organization for a donation, share that knowledge with your mentee so they can make good decisions when they make their own charitable contributions. Communicate to your mentee how these skills have had a positive impact on your own life and the lives of others to reinforce their importance and why it is important for them to gain the same skills.

Creative mentoring can provide a great opportunity for you to share more than just your money and property with those you love: you can share your important values and the skills and experiences gained as you have put them into practice. If you want to leave a lasting legacy for your family and loved ones and need assistance creating or updating your estate plan, please give us a call.

New Business Succession Strategy: The Purpose Trust

The beginning of a new year is when many of us reflect on where we have been and what we would like to accomplish in the future. If you are a business owner, you may be tempted to succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and fail to take the time to consider the future of your business. However, it is important to think about what you would like your life’s work to accomplish in the future. If you would like to help make the world a better place for future generations, you should consider a relatively new and perhaps unfamiliar planning tool: the purpose trust.

What Is a Purpose Trust?

A typical trust is an agreement involving several parties: the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiary. After the trust is created, the grantor funds it with money or property, and the trustee is responsible for managing the money and property as specified in the trust for the benefit of specific named beneficiaries. One exception recognized under the law is a charitable trust that is created for a charitable purpose but has no specific beneficiaries. In recent years, however, some states have enacted statutes that allow the establishment of noncharitable purpose trusts (generally known as purpose trusts). In some states, they can be established only to care for pets or maintain a grave site. However, other states (for example, Delaware, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) allow purpose trusts for most lawful purposes, as long as they are reasonable, attainable, and do not violate public policy. Because there are no beneficiaries to ensure that the trustee is carrying out the purpose of the trust, the grantor must designate an independent trust “enforcer” who can petition the court if the trustee fails to perform its duties under the trust. The same or a different party could also be appointed as a trust protector who can modify the trust if necessary, for example, to add beneficiaries if the purpose of the trust has ended, change the situs of the trust, or even terminate it. The goal of a purpose trust is different from that of more common estate planning tools in that it is not aimed primarily at minimizing taxes or transferring wealth efficiently (although it may achieve those goals) but instead at ensuring that the grantor’s stated purpose is carried out.

The Patagonia Purpose Trust

In September 2022, Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, a $3 billion clothing company, transferred the voting stock of the company to a purpose trust designed to further his lifelong goal of fighting the environmental crisis. In a message from Chouinard on Patagonia’s website, he explained that his desire was for the company to continue to pursue its stated purpose: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”[1] After learning that his children were not interested in running the business, he considered his options. Although he could have sold the company and donated the proceeds to other organizations that would continue to pursue the company’s goals, he worried that a new owner of Patagonia would have different values and that his employees would not have job security. The voting stock of the company was transferred to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which, guided by the family and their advisors, will ensure that the company’s values are pursued and that its profits further their goals. All of the nonvoting stock was contributed to a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that will be funded by Patagonia’s dividends, worth an estimated $100 million a year,[2] which it will use in its efforts to protect the environment. Because the business interests were not donated to a charity, the gift will be subject to an estimated $17.5 million in gift tax, and no charitable deduction will be available to Chouinard. However, he will avoid $700 million in capital gains taxes, and when he dies, Chouinard’s estate will avoid substantial estate tax liability.[3]

Why Would You Want to Transfer Your Business to a Purpose Trust?

If you own a profitable company, there are a number of reasons why you may be interested in a purpose trust as you consider business succession planning. Like the Chouinard family, you can ensure that in addition to providing job security for your employees, the values underlying your business continue to be pursued for many decades into the future. Especially if you do not have children who are interested in running the business, or if your children do not share your values, the terms of a purpose trust can require future management to adhere to the purpose of the trust. Transferring the business to a purpose trust will also ensure that it remains a private company and that the pursuit of profits will never replace your cherished values as its main goal.

What are your goals for the future of your business? If you have a desire to use the wealth you have acquired for the benefit of others, you may be interested in learning more about a purpose trust. Give us a call if we can help you determine if you would like to explore this planning opportunity.

Tax Season Is Just around the Corner

For everything there is a season, and it will soon be the season for taxes. Although it always seems to arrive too quickly, you will start to receive important tax documents by January 31. Whether you are filing as an individual or administering an estate or trust, you should start to prepare for tax day, April 18, 2023.

Filing as an Individual

Individuals (and married couples) use Form 1040 to file their annual income tax return. Starting in January, watch for the arrival of forms stating the amount of income you earned during 2022. Here are several of the most common forms you may need to complete your Form 1040:

Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. If you are a full-time employee or work part-time but are classified as an employee, your employer is required to send you a Form W-2 by January 31, 2023, showing the amount you were paid in wages, tips, and other compensation; the amount withheld by your employer for taxes; and the amount withheld for Social Security and Medicare. This form is not sent to independent contractors or self-employed workers.

Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation. If you earned at least $600 in income as an independent contractor, the party or business who hired you must provide you with a Form 1099-NEC (in the past, Form 1099-MISC was used) by January 31, 2023. Form 1099-MISC is still used for prizes, awards, and other income payments, and the business must also provide this to you by January 31, 2023.

Form 1099-INT, Interest Income. Any entity that has paid you interest income of at least $10 must send you a Form 1099-INT by January 31, 2023. This could include banks or other financial institutions. For example, it will be issued for interest paid on savings bonds or savings and checking accounts. You should use this form to report all interest income you have received during the tax year to the Internal Revenue Service.

Form 1099-DIV, Dividends and Distributions. Financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, and mutual funds that have issued you at least $10 in dividends or other distributions must send you a Form 1099-DIV by January 31, 2023. This form supplies you the information you will need to report the income you receive from investments in the form of dividends.

It is also important to gather and maintain records of IRA contributions, health savings account contributions, and other items that can reduce your taxable income, as well as documentation that will allow you to take advantage of tax deductions or credits, such as charitable contributions and mortgage interest.

Filing as an Executor or Trustee

If you are the executor of an estate or a trustee for a trust, you must report income of more than $600 earned by the estate or trust on Form 1041. If there is a beneficiary who is a nonresident alien, it must be filed regardless of the amount of income earned. However, if the beneficiaries of the estate or trust are entitled to receive the income, they are responsible for actually paying the income tax rather than the estate or trust. A few examples of assets held by an estate or trust that may earn income include mutual funds, rental property, savings accounts, stocks, or bonds.

The date the return is due depends on whether the estate or trust follows a calendar year or a fiscal year. Calendar year estates and trusts must file the return by April 18, 2023, but fiscal year estates and trusts must file the return by the fifteenth day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year. The executor or trustee can choose whether to use a calendar or fiscal year. Many executors and trustees file a form electing a fiscal year, which begins on the date of the individual’s death and ends on the last day of the month before the anniversary of the date of death, because it allows more time for tax planning. In contrast, if the executor or trustee chooses to use a calendar year, the tax year begins on the date of death and ends on December 31 of the same year.

Executors and trustees must report all distributions of income made to beneficiaries on a Schedule K-1 (1041). In addition, you must send a copy of their respective Schedules K-1 to each beneficiary who has received a distribution of income, and the beneficiaries must report the amount of the distributions on their personal income tax returns. The deadlines for Schedule K-1 are the same as those for Form 1041 and depend on whether a calendar year or fiscal year is being used. Because the beneficiaries need to report this income on their own income tax returns, it is important to send the Schedule K-1 to them as early as possible.

As the executor or trustee, you should gather and maintain records of your fees, fees paid to professionals such as lawyers or accountants, administrative expenses, and distributions to beneficiaries so you can report them on Form 1041 to support tax deductions you claim for the estate or trust.

We Can Help

It is crucial to consider the implications of income taxes for estate planning and administration, whether you are an individual who needs to create or update your own estate plan or if you are administering an estate or trust. Please give us a call if you have any questions about how income taxes should affect your planning or administration decisions.

[1] Yvon Chouinard, Earth Is Now Our Only Shareholder, Patagonia, https://www.patagonia.com/ownership/ (last visited Dec. 22, 2022).

[2] David Gelles, Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company, N.Y. Times (Sept. 14, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/14/climate/patagonia-climate-philanthropy-chouinard.html.

[3] Patagonia Billionaire Ducks $700 Million Tax Hit by Giving It Up, Bloomberg Law (Sept. 16, 2022), https://news.bloombergtax.com/daily-tax-report/patagonia-billionaire-ducks-700-million-tax-hit-by-giving-it-up.

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