Estate Tax Planning for Non-U.S. Persons
Winston Churchill’s quote is apt for many who plan for wealthy international clients. Perhaps you have had this happen to you? You receive a call from a close relative of a client who has just purchased an apartment in their own name. This relative spends considerable time in New York City. You know that the family is now exposed to U.S. estate tax, and you have to figure out how to extricate them from this issue.
Our firm focuses on the adroit and compliant concept of Expanded Worldwide Planning (EWP). At the heart of EWP is a properly structured Private Placement Life Insurance (PPLI) policy that allows the insurance company of the assets inside the policy to become the beneficial owner of these assets. In many cases this gives the structure additional privacy protection as well as simplicity.
Life insurance, and this includes PPLI, is a well-recognized and well-established financial planning tool. If the overall structure is properly conceived, you have a tax efficient and compliant structure that gives tax-deferred growth to the assets inside the PPLI policy. At the death of the insured life in the policy, a tax-free death benefit transfers the assets to, in most cases, a trust that conforms to the family’s estate planning aims.
Prior to the passage of the Trump Administration’s new tax bill, many had speculated on two key possible impacts for non-U.S. persons—the elimination of the estate tax exemption disparity between non-U.S. and U.S. persons, and the elimination of the estate tax itself, which could have eliminated a long-standing reason to use offshore structures.
On December 22, 2017, Public Law 115‑97 (“Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) was enacted amending the estate tax for U.S. persons only. Sections 2010 and 2001, both of which apply to estates of citizens or residents, did not alter taxes imposed on the estates of nonresidents who are not U.S. citizens who hold U.S. situs assets.
Under Section 2010, the basic exclusion amount for estates of resident or citizen decedents dying after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026, is increased from $5 million to $10 million. But I.R.C. Sections 2101-2108 which pertain to the “Estates of Non-Residents Not Citizens,” were not amended. Accordingly, the tax imposed on the transfer of the taxable estate of decedent nonresidents who are not U.S. citizens remains subject to a minimum basic exclusion of only $60,000.
Given the continuing taxation upon death of U.S. situs assets for those private wealth clients, care is urged in planning how those assets are held. The many and varied planning possibilities inherent in EWP can be achieved through using the correct PPLI structure. The protection of U.S. situs assets of non-U.S. persons is just one of the many uses of EWP.
If you give us a brief fact pattern of your situation, we can let you know if EWP and PPLI are the right fit for you. We look forward to your questions and comments.