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Maura Curran, Attorney
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Exploring Qualified Personal Residence Trusts: A Key Estate Planning Strategy

In recent years, American estates have benefited from high estate tax exemption rates, sparing many from complex estate planning tactics to dodge taxes that have hit highs of 60%. But with the political winds shifting, these exemptions could shrink, prompting savvy individuals and families to explore options for reducing estate taxes. One effective method is the Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT).

Advantages of QPRTs

A QPRT is an irrevocable trust designed to hold a person’s home. When executed properly, it offers several benefits:

1. Reduced Tax Liability: Transferring your home to a QPRT during your lifetime can incur much less tax than if it were transferred upon your death.
2. Removal of Appreciation: Any increase in your home’s value over time is excluded from your taxable estate.
3. Continued Residence: You can reside in your home rent-free for a set period.
4. Further Tax Reductions: By paying rent to the trust after a certain time, you can further lower the value of your taxable property.
5. Asset Protection: The trust can offer protection against creditors and other financial risks for the beneficiaries.

How Does a QPRT Work?

To establish a QPRT, you transfer your home into the trust. The trust document allows you to live there for a predetermined term. This arrangement reduces the taxable value of the gift to the trust under federal law. Once the term ends, the beneficiaries, typically your children receive the home. If you wish to stay, you can rent the property, which allows for tax-free cash transfers to the trust. For the taxpayer to realize the above benefits, a QPRT must be carefully designed and implemented.

For the trust to qualify as a QPRT under federal tax regulations, the following terms must be included:

1. All income generated by the trust must be distributed to the trust’s grantor at least annually.
2. The QPRT cannot allow the distribution of trust principal to any beneficiary other than the grantor before the term expires.

1Treas. Reg. § 25.2702-5(c)(1).

3. The trust can hold only one residence with a reserved right of occupancy during the specified term and cannot hold any other type of property (with some limited exceptions to help maintain and insure the home).
4. The QPRT must prohibit termination of the trust and distribution of trust property among the beneficiaries prior to the expiration of the trust term.
5. The trust must require that if the residence is no longer being used as the grantor’s personal residence, the trust will cease to qualify as a QPRT.
6. The trust must provide that if the home is damaged or destroyed to the degree that it becomes uninhabitable, the trust will cease to be a QPRT unless the home is repaired or replaced before the earlier of two years after the damage occurs or the expiration of the grantor’s residency term.
7. The QPRT must not allow the trust to sell or transfer the residence to the donor, their spouse, or an entity controlled by either of them at any time during the grantor’s residency term or at any time after the grantor’s residency term that the trust remains a grantor trust.

Considering the Trade-Offs

While QPRTs offer tax advantages, they also come with downsides:

Costs: Setting up and maintaining a QPRT can be expensive.
Croperty Tax Reassessment: In transferring your residence to a QPRT may lead to higher property taxes.
Occupancy Rights: Post-term, you must relinquish occupancy rights unless you rent from the beneficiaries.
Tax Implications for Beneficiaries: The home will carry your tax basis, potentially leading to high taxes for beneficiaries upon sale.
Complexity with Mortgaged Homes: It’s advisable to transfer homes without mortgages due to complicated tax accounting.

Is a QPRT Right for You?

A QPRT can be a wise choice for those with significant wealth, potentially facing estate taxes, and expecting their property to appreciate. However, given its complexities, it’s vital to consult with an attorney and tax professional to balance the benefits and drawbacks.

If you’re considering a QPRT for your estate planning, we’re here to guide you through the process and help determine if it’s the right strategy. If you believe you can benefit from a QPRT, call The Curran Law Firm.