U.S. v. Kimball Case Supports the Use of a 541 Trust – Even Against IRS Lien

One of the simplest planning techniques to protect against claims from creditors, even the IRS, is to use a properly drafted irrevocable non self-settled trust. For generations, courts have found that these types of trusts will not be accessible by the creditors of the individual creating the trust.

In U.S. v. Kimball, Jr., 117 AFTR 2d 2016-811, (DC ME), 06/24/2016, the United States District Court District of Maine addressed two separate counts. The first count was granted on summary judgment, resulting in a judgment of $1,090,700.05 in unpaid taxes and penalties against Mr. Kimball as an individual. The second count was an attempt to have the tax lien attach to a trust that Mr. Kimball created. The Court denied the second count on summary judgment. In other words, the assets in the trust were safely protected from the tax lien.

The Court found that the trust was not the property of Mr. Kimball and the tax lien should not attach to the trust property. Mr. Kimball created the trust naming his children as beneficiaries and himself as trustee. The trust included flexible provisions, but the trust restricted any changes that would cause Mr. Kimball to become a beneficiary of the trust. In the event of changes to the trust, the relevant property would go to the beneficiaries of the trust, and not to Mr. Kimball.

The type of trust used by Mr. Kimball was a non-self-settled trust. This type of trust is a trust that does not name the settlor as a beneficiary, but instead the trust names a third party as the beneficiary of the trust (i.e. naming the settlor’s spouse or children as beneficiaries). Because the trust is not “self-settled” the creditors of the settlor cannot reach into the trust, so long as there are no fraudulent transfers into the trust.

A powerful asset protection solution is to combine the asset protection benefits from using a non-self-settled trust with the flexibility provided by the grantor retaining a special power of appointment. A special power of appointment is a tool that provides the settlor with a lot of flexibility while still protecting the trust from creditors’ claims. Court cases and statutes going back over 200 years have consistently held that a special power of appointment is not subject to creditors. We have created such a trust with these unique characteristics. We call our unique trust a 541 Trust®.

A non-self-settled trust has provided an elegant and powerful solution for solid asset protection. Asset protection does not need to be complicated and does not need to use a new and untested planning technique. When properly funded and operated correctly, a 541 Trust® is one of the most efficient, flexible, and effective creditor protection strategies available.

We have perfected the 541 Trust® to obtain the best in asset protection with the flexibility to adjust for changing circumstances. There are generations of court cases demonstrating that it is extremely unlikely that a creditor will be able to access the assets in a 541 Trust®.

Want to get the best in asset protection or learn more about the 541 Trust® and why the Kimball Court, on summary judgement, denied the IRS’ attempt to attach a tax lien to the trust, please call us at 801-765-0279.

Common Questions About Estate Planning Answered

The topic of estate planning and creating a Will can sometimes be a difficult subject to bring up, but it’s a very important topic to discuss with your loved ones, and with an experienced estate planning attorney. Estate planning, when done properly, can ensure that your affairs are handled properly after you pass on, that your family is taken care of, and the inheritance and property is shielded from unnecessary taxes and fines.

What is a Will?

A Will is a document designed to instruct your heirs how to divide and dispose of your tangible personal property and other assets when you pass away. A Will also designates guardians for minors. Television series often portray having a Will as the most important document to govern the administration of your estate when you pass away. This is mostly true—but if you own real estate, your Will has to go through probate. But again, guardians are elected in your Will and it is a necessary document.

What is a Trust?

A Trust is one of the most common estate planning techniques available. While there are many different variations of Trusts, they all share the same basic structure. The creator of the Trust is called the grantor who signs an agreement with a trustee who agrees to hold assets in Trust for the grantor’s chosen beneficiaries. Sometimes the grantor and the trustee are actually the same person.

Think of the Trust like a bucket. The grantor creates a bucket and puts assets into it, such as bank accounts and a home. The trustee’s job is to hold the bucket handle and the assets “in trust” for the beneficiaries named by the grantor. The trustee administers the trust according to the rules laid out by the grantor including how and when to take assets out of the bucket and give them to the beneficiaries.

The benefits of Trusts can include:

  • Probate avoidance;
  • Flexibility;
  • Cost savings;
  • Tax planning;
  • Privacy; and
  • Peace of mind.

Do I Need a Will or a Trust?

Both Wills and Trusts can be commonly used estate planning tools, and you may want to have both depending on your situation. The main differences that you will find between the two are that Wills are only effective after your death, whereas Trusts can become effective immediately (or at a specified time in the future); Wills are directives used to distribute property or appoint a legal representative after your death, whereas Trusts can distribute property at any time prior to or after your death; Wills cover all of your assets, whereas Trusts only cover items that are specifically placed in the Trust; and finally, Wills are public documents while Trusts can remain private if you choose. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide which is right for you.

How Important is Power of Attorney or Health Care Directive?

Granting someone “power of attorney” (POA) is a very important step in estate planning because it designates someone who can make legal decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them on your own. These can include financial decisions as well as medical or legal ones, so the person you appoint to this duty should be someone you trust and someone who knows what you would want. Without POA, these decisions could be left up to a judge in the courts, who is likely a stranger and will have no idea what you would have wanted.

A Health Care Directive (HCD) is designed to instruct medical caregivers and doctors how you want to be cared for in the event of incapacitation. Incapacity most commonly includes a coma or dementia. This document covers your Living Will wishes, which are your wishes if you are in a state of unawareness with little or no hope of recovery. You choose your own healthcare agents and tell through this document your wishes. You can revoke this document at any time while you’re competent to make decisions for yourself. 

How Often Should I Update an Estate Plan?

The best answer to this question is: as often as you need to. While there is no set time frame for updating your documents, you should make sure to revisit them any time you have a significant life event take place. This might include things like:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Additional children, whether by birth, adoption, or marriage
  • Death of a spouse
  • Significant changes to your assets
  • Relocation
  • Changes to tax laws, or the status of guardians, trustees, or executors

Since you may not know when the tax laws change, in the absence of any of the other events, it’s a good idea to visit with an estate planning attorney in Utah about once every five years to be sure yours is up to date.

What Happens if My Family Contests My Will?

The death of a family member can be a very difficult time, and sometimes other issues within the family spillover when settling an estate plan. Fortunately there are things you can do to protect the directives spelled out in your Will, even in the face of a legal challenge after your death. Having a plan that is created and properly executed by an estate planning attorney is the best way to protect against this. It’s also helpful to discuss your wishes and plans with family members while you are alive to avoid surprises.

Estate planning can be complicated, so to answer all your questions and get started on your estate plan, call an experienced attorney today.

What is a 541 Trust®?

We use the 541 Trust® name to refer to an irrevocable asset protection trust built upon a foundation of generations of proven legal precedent. A 541 Trust® is a domestic, irrevocable, non-self-settled trust carefully designed to provide the best asset protection while at the same time affording maximum flexibility. The 541 Trust® is not a new school of thought nor is it based on foreign laws. We have carefully researched generations of legal precedent right here in the U.S. to find strategies that have always worked and design our trusts in compliance.

Assets owned by you are within reach of your creditors. Likewise, absent a fraudulent transfer, assets not owned by you cannot be reached by your creditors. If asset protection is a key goal in your estate planning, you must somehow remove the assets from your personal ownership. The best way to remove assets from your ownership is through the use of a properly crafted irrevocable trust. Because our trusts are drafted in compliance with U.S. laws, and are supported by generations of legal precedent, they provide the best possible protection.

Public policy and generations of legal precedent are clear: you cannot settle a trust for your own benefit and at the same time shield the trust assets from your potential creditors. Offshore Trusts and Domestic Self-Settled Asset Protection trusts (DAPTs) are self-settled, which is a fatal chink in the supposed armor of these types of trusts. Even though some states and offshore jurisdictions purport to allow self-settled asset protection trusts, it is important to see what the courts have made clear–the only court cases dealing with Offshore Trusts or DAPTs have shown that they fail to protect the assets.[i] Despite an abundance of promotion and marketing, self-settled trusts (DAPTs and Offshore Trusts) have zero wins when challenged in court. The Uniform Trust Code states that a creditor of a settlor may reach the maximum amount that can be distributed to or for the settlor’s benefit.[ii] In other words, if a settlor who is also a beneficiary has access to trust cash, property, vehicles, etc., so does a creditor. It is hard to argue that an Offshore Trust or a DAPT is the best solution based on their dismal record when challenged in court.

Generations of legal precedent have made clear that the only type of trust which has withstood the test of time as a proven method of asset protection is a non-self-settled trust (a.k.a. a third party trust or our 541 Trust®). This means that the settlor of the trust creates the trust for beneficiaries other than him/herself.[iii] 

Our 541 Trust® protects assets from a person’s potential future liabilities by removing the assets from the person’s legal and personal ownership. Rather than employing new strategies which have not been tested or strategies which rely on the laws of foreign jurisdictions, the 541 Trust® is designed using methods which have been successfully tested in lawsuits, bankruptcy, and IRS audits in the U.S. legal system. The 541 Trust® has been proven to work better than offshore trusts and other asset protection strategies. Frankly, the name of the trust is of little importance. The important part of the 541 Trust® is its craftsmanship. Our years of experience and dedication to building trusts upon a tried and tested legal foundation is the key value to our asset protection trusts. After all, what good is a trust if it fails when challenged? The legal precedent speaks for itself.

 [i] In re Mortensen, Battley v. Mortensen, (Adv. D.Alaska, No. A09-90036-DMD, May 26, 2011), Waldron v. Huber (In re Huber), 2013 WL 2154218 (Bk.W.D.Wa., Slip Copy, May 17, 2013), Dexia Credit Local v. Rogan 624 F. Supp 2d 970 (N.D.Ill. 2009), 11 U.S.C. 548(e), More offshore self-settled trust cases HERE.

[ii] Uniform Trust Code Section 505, Restatement (Second) of Trusts Section 156(2), and Restatement (Third) of Trusts Section 58(2).

[iii] “By establishing an irrevocable trust in favor of another, a settlor, in effect, gives her assets to the third party as a gift. Once conveyed, the assets no longer belong to the settlor and are no more subject to the claims of her creditors than if the settlor had directly transferred title to the third party.” In re Jane McLean Brown, D. C. Docket No. 01-14026-CV-DLG (11th Cir. 2002).

IRS Approved NING Trust provides Substantial Tax Savings

For many years, we have helped clients reduce income taxes by using a Nevada trust often referred to as a “NING Trust” (Nevada Incomplete Gift Non-Grantor Trust). In PLR 20131002, the IRS approved this concept by ruling that the trust qualified as a complex trust for income tax purposes and that gifts to the trust were incomplete for federal gift tax purposes. In other words, a person can transfer assets of unlimited value to a NING Trust without gift tax consequences. The income of the NING Trust is taxed at the trust level and does not flow through to the grantor. Because Nevada has no state income tax there is huge potential for income tax savings. Here are three examples of how a NING trust can save taxes:

A California resident can avoid the 13.3% California tax on investment assets or capital gains. For example, assume a California resident establishes a properly structured [NING] trust and contributes a $20 million stock portfolio that produces 8% taxable income per year. Over a period of 10 years, the California income tax saved could be $2,500,000. Over 20 years, the compounded savings from not paying California income tax could be $8,500,000. (See Gordon Schaller & The 13.3% Solution: of DINGs, NINGs, WINGs and Other ThINGs, LISI Estate Planning Newsletter #2191 (February 5, 2014)).

As another example, we have a client who placed his stock into a NING trust prior to a sale of his company. When the stock was sold by the NING trust, the client saved over $5,000,000 in state capital gains taxes. Later, when the trustee terminated the trust and distributed the assets back to the client, the client was not required to pay state capital gains tax on the distribution because the state does not tax capital gains distributed from a nonresident trust.

As a third example, a professional athlete transferred the majority of his investment portfolio to a NING trust. The athlete pays federal and state tax on his W-2 earnings and on the investments he holds outside of the NING trust. The athlete is not required to pay state tax on the investment income earned by the trust, and this allows the trust to grow free of state income tax.

Call 801-765-0279 for more information or click HERE to email us.

The information and examples above are provided as general information and may not be used as tax advice for any particular situation. Each person should seek individualized tax advice for their own situation.

When do courts allow a trust to be pierced as an alter ego?

One way to attack an irrevocable trust is to prove that the trust is the alter ego of the grantor because the trust is operated in a manner so that it has no separate existence from the grantor. Some courts describe this as the grantor “exercising such control that the trust has become a mere instrumentality of the owner.” In re Vebeliunas, 332 F.3d 85 (2nd Cir. 2003).

In WILSHIRE CREDIT CORPORATION v. KARLIN, 988 F.Supp. 570 (1997), Allan and Mary Rozinsky established an irrevocable trust for their children and transferred their home to the trust. The Rozinskys paid rent equal to the amount of the mortgage, insurance, and monthly expenses. For a time, the trust also owned a beach home that the Rozinskys rented from the trust. The trustees were close friends and relatives who admitted that most of their decisions were made at the direction of the Rozinskys.

After a time, the Rozinskys became unable to make the rent payments and they issued promissory notes to the trust in the amount of the delinquent rent, although no payments were made on the promissory notes. The court held that under Maryland law, alter-ego will only apply where necessary to prevent fraud, and because no fraudulent transfer had occurred, the creditors could not reach the trust assets despite the control exerted by the settlors.

In UNITED STATES v. EVSEROFF, No. 00-CV-06029 (E.D.N.Y. April 30, 2012), Jacob Evseroff established an irrevocable trust and transferred his primary residence to it after having received notice of a tax deficiency of over $700,000. A series of family friends served as the trustees of the trust. Evseroff did not pay rent to the trust for the privilege of living in the residence, but he did pay the mortgage and expenses as he had when he owned the home. The trust never assumed the mortgage and it was never listed on the flood or fire insurance on the home.

The court held that a plaintiff may pierce the veil of a trust, under the laws of New York, if the plaintiff can show that “(1) the owner exercised such control that the corporation has become a mere instrumentality of the owner, who is the real actor; (2) the owner used this control to commit a fraud or ‘other wrong’; and (3) the fraud or wrong results in an unjust loss or injury to the plaintiff.” Because the transfers to the trust were found to be fraudulent, and because the facts indicated that Evseroff had dominated the trust, the court allowed the government to collect against the assets of the trust.

Lessons learned from these cases: (1) don’t wait until you have a liability problem to transfer assets to an asset protection trust, (2) appoint a trustee who will take control of the trust, and (3) don’t allow a person other than the trustee to control or dominate the trustee or engage in transactions with the trust on terms that are not commercially reasonable in an arms-length transaction.