When should you turn down an inheritance?




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Jul 29, 2022

“Thanks, but no thanks.” If you expect to receive an inheritance from a family member, you might want to use a qualified disclaimer to refuse the bequest. As a result, the assets will bypass your estate and go directly to the next beneficiary in line. It is as if the successor beneficiary, not you, had been named as the beneficiary in the first place.

Why would you ever look this proverbial gift horse in the mouth? Frequently, using a qualified disclaimer will save gift and estate tax, while redirecting funds to where they ultimately would have gone anyway. This estate planning tool is designed to benefit the entire family. Be aware that a disclaimer does not have to be an “all or nothing” decision. It is possible to disclaim only certain assets, or only a portion of a particular asset, which would otherwise be received.

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Reasons for using a disclaimer

Federal estate tax laws are fairly rigid, but a qualified disclaimer offers some unique flexibility to a forward-thinking beneficiary. Consider these possible reasons from an estate planning perspective:

Gift and estate tax savings. This is often cited as the main incentive for using a qualified disclaimer. For starters, the unlimited marital deduction shelters all transfers between spouses from gift and estate tax. In addition, transfers to non-spouse beneficiaries, such as your children and grandchildren, may be covered by the federal gift and estate tax exemption. For 2022, the exemption amount is an inflation-adjusted $12.06 million.

Generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. Disclaimers may also be useful in planning for the GST tax. This tax applies to most transfers that skip a generation, such as bequests and gifts from a grandparent to a grandchild or comparable transfers through trusts. Like the gift and estate tax exemption, the GST tax exemption is an inflation-adjusted $12.06 million for 2022.

If GST tax liability is a concern, you may wish to disclaim an inheritance. For instance, if you disclaim a parent’s assets, the parent’s exemption can shelter the transfer from GST tax when the inheritance goes directly to your children. The GST tax exemption for your own assets would not be affected.

Charitable deductions. In some cases, a charitable contribution may be structured to provide a life estate, with the remainder going to a charitable organization. Without the benefit of a charitable remainder trust, an estate would not qualify for a charitable deduction in this instance, but using a disclaimer can provide a deduction because the assets will pass directly to the charity.

Before making a final decision on whether to accept a bequest or use a qualified disclaimer to refuse it, talk to us to better determine if it is the right move for you. Our accountants can be reached at 319-364-2945 in Cedar Rapids or 319-339-4884 in Iowa City.



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