Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

Value of Michael Jackson’s Image

When Michael Jackson died, his estate valued his image and “right of publicity” at zero on his U.S. Estate Tax Return, as well as the value of his music interests due to the large debts encumbering those interests. The IRS disagreed, and argued that the success of the documentary and Cirque du Soleil show released after his death were foreseeable and should affect the value of his estate. The disagreement resulted in a $526 million estate tax deficiency and penalties of $205 million imposed by the IRS. The trial began in Tax Court on February 6, 2017.

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Estate of Petteys v. Farmers State Bank of Brush, 2016 COA 34, No. 14CA1581

On March 10, 2016, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion that reversed the trial court and held that an irrevocable trust, a part of which was included in the gross estate of the decedent, was required to contribute its pro rata share of estate taxes under Colorado's estate tax apportionment statute. Our firm had prepared the Will for the decedent, in which estate taxes attributable to the irrevocable trust's inclusion in his gross estate were specifically apportioned to that trust. The trust had been created in 1958. The decedent died in 2009; a U.S. Estate Tax Return was filed in 2010, the estate paid the entire tax due, and the personal representative requested that the trust contribute its share of the tax. When the trustee refused, the personal representative brought suit. Initially, the trial court held that because federal law was silent as to apportionment to such interests prior to the 1986 effective date for IRC 2207B, the Colorado statute at 15-12-916 applied, but the court did not decide certain other issues. After the IRS completed its audit in October 2012, final request for contribution was made. A hearing was held before the trial court in 2015 on the remaining issues, and the court ordered, among other things, that the effective date statute at 15-17-101 permitted the court to refuse to apply the Colorado Probate Code if it found it to be "inequitable." The trial court found that it would be inequitable to force the trustee to pay its pro rata share of the tax and entered judgment for the trustee. The personal representative appealed.

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December 31, 2014 Deadline for Portability Return

Rev. Proc. 2014-18 gives surviving spouses an extended deadline for filing a U.S. Estate Tax Return (Form 706) in order to add the deceased spouse's unused exclusion amount to his or her own estate tax exemption. However, such a return must be filed by December 31, 2014. Ordinarily, a "portability" return must be filed by the due date of the return: nine months after date of death, or, if an extension is requested, 15 months after date of death. This extended deadline only applies to estates of decedents with gross estates less than the filing threshold: $5,340,000 for decedents dying in 2014.

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U.S. Supreme Court Finds Federal DOMA Unconstitutional

By Laurie A. Hunter, Esq.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, determined that the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that prohibited recognition of a valid same-sex marriage under state law was unconstitutional. U.S. v. Windsor. In this case, the surviving spouse of a valid same-sex marriage filed a U.S. Estate Tax Return, claiming the marital deduction for assets passing to her. The marital deduction was denied by the IRS, and tax assessed. This decision makes clear that for a valid marriage under state law, the federal government cannot deny benefits to a spouse.

What this decision does not do: It did not address the validity of a state’s "DOMA" laws, which Colorado has passed, in which a state refuses to recognize the validity of a same-sex marriage that is valid under another state’s law. This may be the next case that reaches a court. It also does not address civil unions, that are specifically not marriage. In Colorado’s new Civil Union statute, a valid same-sex marriage in another state automatically converts to a civil union in Colorado. Therefore, it may be that couples married in a state where same-sex marriage is valid, would still not be entitled to spousal benefits in Colorado, but they could be entitled to federal spousal benefits. The effect is unclear at this point.

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President’s Budget Includes Changes Affecting Estate Plan

The President released his budget on April 10, 2013. While this does not mean these provisions will become law, they could be part of a tax reform package later this year. Some of the changes include: (1) a $3 million cap on IRAs and retirement plan; (2) Inherited IRAs would have to be paid out in 5 years instead of over the beneficiary’s life expectancy; (3) Generation-skipping transfer tax exemption applicable to trusts would expire after 90 years; (4) Grantor retained annuity trusts would have a minimum term of 10 years; and (5) coordination between the value of an asset reported on the U.S. Estate Tax Return and the beneficiary’s reported basis on a sale.
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