By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD
What is it? A Qualified Personal Residence Trust ("QPRT") is a special trust used as an estate planning technique to leverage a gift of your principal residence or vacation home out of your estate at a significant discount from its current value. The technique, when successful (which requires your outliving the term of the trust) can save substantial estate taxes.
Standard Use: You gift your house to a QPRT and reserve the right to live in the house for a specified number of years, typically 5-10 years. After that time period the heirs own the house. Often you'll reserve the right to continue to lease the house after that term at fair market value.
Tailored Use: While QPRTs are typically used by older taxpayers to save estate tax, you might consider using a QPRT even if much younger for asset protection purposes. Suppose you are considering accepting a position on a board of directors and are concerned about the potential liability. You transfer your house to a QPRT for a 25-year term, lasting into your retirement. In the event of a later suit or claim, absent a fraudulent conveyance (e.g., you transfer the property after a claim arises against you), the house is owned by an irrevocable trust with remainder beneficiaries having an interest in the trust's property.
Key: A QPRT can be more than just an estate plan, it can be part of your asset protection plan to protect your house.
Creation of a Successful QPRT: To succeed, you must have all your QPRT ducks in a row-not a simple task considering that many different professionals are involved. Unless you have expressly confirmed that one professional is "honcho'ing" the plan, make sure you have all the following documents and steps addressed. Too often taxpayers try to address many of these steps to control professional fees and the steps are ignored or only partially completed, undermining the objectives:
NOTE: If you already deeded your house into a QPRT and failed to file a gift-tax return, do not ignore this oversight! The IRS will eventually find out and they will be much more forgiving if you approach them with a mistake then if you wait for them to find it.
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