Using a QTIP trust allows one spouse to create a trust to benefit the surviving spouse, while providing the surviving spouse with up to nine months to decide how to treat the gift for tax purposes, explains a recent article “How Certain Trusts Soften The Blow Of Estate Tax Increases” from Financial Advisor. This flexibility is just one reason for this trust’s popularity. However, while the QTIP election can be made on the 2021 gift tax return, which is filed in 2022, the choice as to how much of the transfer will be subject to tax can be made in 2022.
The current estate and gift tax exemption of $11.7 per individual is slated to sunset in 2025, but the current legislative mood may curtail that legislation sooner. Right now, flexibility is paramount.
The surviving spouse is named as the primary beneficiary of the trust and must be the only beneficiary of the trust during the lifetime of the surviving spouse, in terms of both receiving income or principal from the trust.
If the decision is made to treat the trust as a QTIP trust, a gift to the trust is eligible for the marital deduction and is not taxable. It does not use up any of the donor’s gift tax exclusion. That flexibility to make a transfer today and decide later whether it uses any lifetime exemption is something most people don’t know about. A QTIP can also protect the recipient spouse and the principal from any creditors.
There are conditions and limitations to this strategy. If the QTIP election is not made, all net trust income must be distributed to the beneficiary spouse. There’s also no flexibility for the trust income to be accumulated or distributed directly to descendants.
The property over which the QTIP election is made is included in the estate of the surviving spouse.
The election can be made over the entire asset or only a portion of the asset transferred to the trust. The option to apply only a portion of the transfer makes it more tax efficient. For generation skipping-trust purposes, an election can be made to use the transferor spouse’s GST exemption when the decision about the QTIP election is made.
QTIPs are not the solution for everyone, but they may be the best option for many people while the people in Washington, D.C. determine the immediate future of the estate tax.
There are many Americans who are moving forward with making gifts using the current gift tax exclusion, using spousal lifetime access trusts (SLATs). However, the QTIP elections remain a way to hedge against the risk of being on the hook for a substantial gift tax, if there is a reduction in the federal estate tax exemptions.
Speak with an estate planning attorney to learn if a QTIP or another type of trust is appropriate for you. Note that these are complex planning strategies, and they must work in tandem with the rest of your estate plan.