If you live in a state that still has an inheritance tax, there are some steps you can take to avoid the tax. However, they must be done carefully, so that you don’t create any other issues.
Here’s what people often don’t know about inheritance taxes: in states like New Jersey, the inheritance tax isn’t based on the size of the estate. It depends upon who is receiving the proceeds. A recent article from NJ.com, “How to avoid the inheritance tax,” provides all of the details.
New Jersey doesn’t impose an inheritance tax on transfers to a parent, grandparent, spouse, domestic partner, child, step-child or grandchild. These are all Class "A" beneficiaries. However, an inheritance tax is imposed on transfers to a niece or nephew, who are considered Class "D" beneficiaries. The tax rate is about 15 or 16%, depending on the amount transferred.
An important point to remember is that all transfers made within three years of death, are presumed to be “in contemplation of death.” These transfers may also be subject to inheritance tax. In addition, transfers designed to take effect at or after death are included in a person's estate for inheritance tax purposes.
One way to get around some inheritance taxes is to gift funds to your relatives during your lifetime. You can make outright gifts or pay for a family member’s medical costs or educational expenses. Inheritance taxes can also be avoided with an irrevocable trust in some situations. With this type of trust, you must give up control and use of the assets placed in a trust.
An individual can make annual gifts of $14,000 per person without any gift taxes. If the annual gift exceeds $14,000, the excess amount will utilize a portion of the individual's estate and gift tax exemption of $5.49 million.
If someone wished to pay for medical or educational expenses, there are no limits on gifts, as long as payments are made directly to the medical provider or educational institution. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you plan for your state’s inheritance tax for yourself or your heirs.
Reference: NJ.com (July 14, 2017) “How to avoid the inheritance tax”