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This article is designed to illustrate the use of a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust ("GRAT") in an estate
planning context and answer some questions you may have with regard to its use.

1.0        WHAT IS A GRAT?

A GRAT is a form of irrevocable trust.  The trust is structured to allow the grantor of the trust the ability to
transfer assets to the grantor's heirs with minimal gift tax by having the grantor retain an interest in the

2.0        HOW DOES A GRAT WORK?

An individual transfers assets to a GRAT and retains an interest in the trust.  The retained interest is
structured as the right to receive certain predetermined payments ("annuity payments") from the trust
over time.  By including such retained interest in the trust, the grantor substantially reduces the value of
the asset transferred for gift tax purposes.  Once the annuity payments have been made to the grantor
from the GRAT, the remainder passes to the grantor's heirs without additional gift tax.  The value of the
asset transferred to the GRAT, including appreciation, is also excluded from the grantor's net worth for
estate tax purposes.


By transferring property to a GRAT, the grantor:

(a)        Reduces his or her estate immediately through minority and marketability discounts taken on the
property transferred to the GRAT;

(b)        Freezes the value of the property transferred to the GRAT and allows all appreciation in the
property to pass to the trust beneficiaries without gift or estate tax;

(c)        Will make gift tax-free transfers to the trust's beneficiaries equal to the annual income tax liability
of trust (during the retained interest period and possibly longer);

(d)        May retain control of the underlying property transferred to the GRAT without causing inclusion in
the grantor's gross estate; and

(e)        May have the opportunity to obtain the stepped-up basis that s/he would otherwise receive for
holding the property until death.


(a)        Rather than transferring an asset to one's heirs at full fair market value, the grantor of the trust can
reduce the amount of the asset for gift tax purposes by the assumed value of the retained interest.  The
amount of the reduction is determined by several factors, including the amount of the annuity payments,
the number of years the annuity payments will be made to the grantor, the age of the grantor, and the
assumed rate of return from the asset on the date of the gift.  The assumed return is typically between
6-8% and is determined by the IRS.  If structured correctly, the GRAT may effectively “zero-out” the gift
so no taxable gift is created by the transfer to the GRAT.

(b)        The statutory language allowing a GRAT specifically includes an automatic adjustment clause that
eliminates the possibility any additional gift tax will be created to the extent the IRS successfully
challenges any valuation discounts taken on the original transfer to the GRAT.  


Family Business Owners.  If you would like to pass a family business to a child (rather than taking
on Uncle Sam as a partner when you die), a GRAT can make that possible with minimal gift and estate tax.  
It also allows you to retain control over the business until you die without causing inclusion of the value
of the business in your estate.

Clients Holding Income Producing Property.  If you currently hold property that produces
substantial annual income, a GRAT can produce substantial estate tax savings.  

Real Property.  Income producing property is especially good property to use with a GRAT
because the discounts for transfers of the property to the trust are typically high and the income can be
used to make the required annuity payments.

Property Expected to Appreciate.  Because a transfer to a GRAT effectively "freezes" the value of
the property at the date of transfer, property that is likely to rise in value is an excellent candidate for a

Clients Who Anticipate Selling Non-income Producing Property at a Premium in the Future.  If
you anticipate selling company stock or other non-income producing in the near future at a value higher
than its current fair market value, a GRAT allows you to lock in the lower value for gift tax purposes at a
minimal gift tax cost.  The value of such property is often less than a proportional share of its fair market
value due to minority and marketability discounts available for such property.  Until the property is sold,
the GRAT may make the required annuity payments in-kind with the property originally gifted to the
GRAT.  When the property is sold, any interest remaining in the GRAT then passes to the trust
beneficiaries (after the annuity payments have been made to the grantor).


Transformation of Property.

Closely-held Stock.  If the grantor wishes to transfer stock in a closely-held corporation to the
GRAT, the corporation should be recapitalized into voting stock and nonvoting stock.  This will allow the
grantor to transfer the majority of the value of the corporation to the GRAT without relinquishing control.  
If the Corporation is currently a C-Corporation, the grantor may consider making an S election so that all
income from the Corporation passes to the GRAT without an additional level of income taxation and the
GRAT has sufficient income to make the required annuity payments.

Other Property.  If the grantor holds real property or other property outside a corporate entity,
these assets can be contributed to a limited liability company ("LLC").  As with closely-held stock, the
membership units of the LLC would also be capitalized as voting and nonvoting interests.  A family
limited partnership ("FLP") could also be used to conduct the transfer of the property to the GRAT
through the transfer of limited partnership interests.

Transfer of Property to GRAT.  

(a)        The nonvoting shares or LLC interests would be transferred to the GRAT in exchange for the right
to receive the annuity payments for a predetermined number of years.  The value of the property
transferred may be entitled to a discount for lack of marketability and lack of control.  Depending upon
the underlying property, the discounts could be between 20-50% of the fair market value of the
underlying property.  Thus, the value of annuity payments payable to the grantor from the GRAT would
be substantially less than the value attributed to such retained interest for gift tax purposes.

(b)        Because the grantor and GRAT are treated as a single taxable entity for income tax purposes
during the period the annuity payments are being repaid to the grantor, no additional income tax returns
need to be filed for the GRAT and all income of the GRAT will be attributed to the grantor.

Repayment of Annuity Payments.  As income is generated by the property held in the GRAT, the
GRAT could distribute a portion of the income to the grantor to satisfy the annuity payments.  Because
the GRAT receives these funds income tax-free (because the income tax is attributed solely to the
grantor), the income will typically be more than sufficient to repay the annuity.  If the property held in the
GRAT is not income producing, the property can be distributed in-kind to satisfy the annuity payments
until the property is sold.

Payment of Income Tax Attributable Property.  The grantor can use a portion of the annuity
payments paid by the GRAT to pay the grantor's income tax liability from the earnings of the property
held in the GRAT.

Conclusion of Annuity Payments.  Once the annuity payments have been repaid to the grantor,
the remaining value of the GRAT can pass outright to the grantor's heirs or be held in continuing trust for
the benefit of the grantor's heirs.

Example.  Assume you (age 55) hold S-Corporation stock with a fair market value of $3,000,000
and transfer a percentage (e.g., 50%) of the shares of the company (all nonvoting shares) to a GRAT in
exchange for the right to receive $116,675 per year for 12 years.  If the nonvoting shares transferred
received a combined 33% minority and marketability discount, the value of the transfer to the GRAT
would first be reduced from $1,500,000 to $1,000,000.  Then, due to the twelve year retained interest, the
value would be reduced to less than $1.  Assuming the S-Corporation stock produced 8% income per
year and appreciated in value at 2% per year, the income from the S-Corporation could be used to pay
the annuity payments to you and you could use these payments to pay the income tax obligations arising
from the corporation.  As a result, after the annuity payments were fully repaid in year 12, the remaining
value in the GRAT would be approximately $1,973,465 (beginning value plus growth) and this would pass
to your heirs without additional tax.  Therefore, by making a nominal gift of $1, you effectively are able to
transfer almost $1,973,465 to your heirs in 12 years using the GRAT.  


Rather than passing the assets remaining in the GRAT to the grantor's heirs outright after the annuity
payments have been repaid, the grantor may wish to keep the property in continuing trust for the
following reasons:

Continued Control over Property.  By keeping the property in trust, the Trustee of the trust controls
the property as well as a beneficiary's right to distributions of income and principal.  Because the Trustee
is selected by the grantor and can be removed or replaced by the grantor, the grantor can effectively
retain continued control over the property without causing inclusion of the property in the grantor's
estate upon death.

Ability to Pay Income Tax of Trust.  If provisions are included in the GRAT that cause the trust to
treated as a "grantor trust" even after the annuity payments have been repaid, all income of the trust will
continue to be taxed to the grantor even though the income passes to the trust beneficiaries.  While this
may not seem like a good result, it effectively allows the grantor to make tax-free gifts (of the income tax
payable) each year the grantor pays the tax of the GRAT.  However, such provisions can provide the
grantor the ability to cancel the "grantor trust provisions" and cause the income to be attributed to the
trust if the grantor no longer wishes to make these tax-free gifts to the trust in the future.

Creditor Protection.  By keeping the property in trust for your heirs, the property will not be subject
to the creditors of the trust beneficiaries while held in trust.  Additional provisions can also be included to
further protect the property from a divorcing spouse of a trust beneficiary, prevent distributions from
being made to a trust beneficiary who is physically or mentally incapable of handling the funds (e.g., a
drug addict), and possibly prevent a trust beneficiary from being disqualified for state and federal aid in
case the trust beneficiary becomes incapacitated.  

Possible Stepped-up Basis of Assets at Death of Grantor.  

(a)        Typically, the heirs of any person who dies holding appreciated property will receive a new income
tax basis equal to the fair market value basis in those assets of those assets at death and will not have to
recognize gain to that extent upon later sale of the property.  For this reason, many clients hold their
property until death.  While their heirs receive the stepped-up basis, the assets are then subject to estate
tax at a rate of up to 45%.   

(b)        With a transfer to a GRAT, the grantor's basis in the transferred property will carry-over to the trust.  
If the GRAT were then to sell the property to a third party, capital gain would have to be recognized.  Even
if this could not be avoided, the transfer to the GRAT would still produce tax savings because of the great
disparity between capital gain and estate tax rates (e.g., maximum 25% combined state & federal capital
gains rate vs. maximum 40% estate tax rate).

(c)        However, even the loss of the stepped-up basis can be avoided where the grantor has sufficient
liquidity outside the trust and the trust has assets for which it makes economic sense for the grantor to
reacquire.  An advantage of keeping the property in trust (with the necessary provisions to ensure the
trust is taxed as a grantor trust) is that the grantor retains the ability to replace the trust property from
the trust for other property of equivalent value at any time.  Using this power, the grantor can exercise,
at some point prior to death, his or her replacement right by transferring cash or other non-appreciated
assets to the trust in exchange for the trust property.  This exchange is completed at the then fair market
value of the trust property, so the grantor has effectively removed all appreciation in the property from his
or her estate.  Then when the grantor dies, the property reclaimed from the trust will receive a stepped-up
basis equal to its fair market value.


Death During Term of Annuity Repayments.  If the grantor survives until after the annuity
payments have been repaid, the property remaining in the trust (including all appreciation) will be
excluded from the grantor's net worth for estate tax purposes.  However, if the grantor dies during the
repayment term, the entire value of the trust property including appreciation will be subject to estate
tax in the grantor's estate.  As a result, it is important to choose a repayment term the grantor is likely
to survive so the anticipated estate tax benefit is achieved.  

No Transfers to Grandchildren.  Because certain IRS rules prevent a grantor from allocating GST
exemption to a GRAT until the end of the retained term (after the property has appreciated), it is typically
not possible to pass the GRAT property to the grantor's grandchildren.  If one has a strong desire to have
the GRAT property pass to the grantor's grandchildren without tax at the children's death, they may want
to consider using a similar estate planning technique entitled "Sales to Defective Grantor Trusts."  

Clay R. Stevens © 2013


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the Treasury Department now requires that all tax advisors attach the following statement to any and all
written communication, except to the extent exhaustive steps are taken to satisfy the new guidelines of
the regulation.  We hereby inform you that any advice contained herein (including in any attachment) (1)
was not written or intended to be used, and cannot be used, by you or any taxpayer for the purpose of
avoiding any penalties that may be imposed on you or any taxpayer and (2) may not be used or referred to
by you or any other person in connection with promoting, marketing or recommending to another person
any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Primiani & Stevens, P.C.
Counselors at Law