By Craig Childress, CFP®
Have you ever considered the legacy you’ll leave behind? Legacy can have many meanings, but in the realm of financial planning, it refers to the assets and wealth that you’ll pass down to your descendants. It’s a noble aspiration to leave a gift that endures for generations, but estate planning and gifting can present challenges of their own. For example, although your estate may be safeguarded now, will that still be the case once it’s in the hands of your heirs?
While gifting can be a complicated process, there are ways to create a plan in order to streamline the transfer of wealth to the next generation. Here are some steps you can take to move toward leaving a legacy you can be proud of.
Make Direct Payments
Simply making direct payments for your children or grandchildren’s expenses is one of the easiest ways to transfer your wealth without the hassle of taxes. Many institutions will allow you to pay your grandchildren’s tuition directly from your account. You can also conveniently take care of other important expenses, such as medical expenses, by automating payments to their healthcare provider.
When you make this sort of payment to an organization or institution, it helps you bypass the burden of gift tax, which can be a hefty price to pay on your assets. However, if you gift the money directly to the recipient, you might still be subject to gift taxes.
Give Annual Gifts
You could also decide to gift some of your assets to your loved ones. Giving gifts helps you reduce the taxable portion of your estate, and you can gift up to $17,000 for 2023 to a loved one before any gift taxes are incurred. If you are splitting the gift with your spouse, you can give up to $34,000 combined for 2023. To effectively transfer wealth to the next generation, you can ensure that you give the maximum amount every year.
It’s worth noting that once you gift more than these limits, the excess amount spills into the “lifetime exclusion bucket.” You must use this entire amount before the IRS requires you to pay gift tax. For 2023, the current lifetime exclusions are $12.92 million and $25.84 million for individuals and married couples, respectively. You will be required to file a gift tax form for any amounts that exceed the annual gifting limits, individually or jointly. This is how the IRS will track your lifetime exclusion amount.
Another great way to transfer wealth to your children and grandchildren is through the use of 529 college savings plans. There is a special provision that allows donors to contribute 5 years’ worth of gifts as a lump sum. This means for 2023, an individual can gift up to $85,000 and a married couple could gift up to $170,000 without incurring gift taxes! The beneficiary can then withdraw the funds and the investment growth tax-free to pay for qualified education expenses.
Creating a trust is another way to transfer wealth to the next generation. To oversee the use of your assets, you can create a trust with specific guidelines for passing your wealth to beneficiaries.
When your estate is significant, an irrevocable trust comes in quite handy. You transfer all your assets from your estate to your trust, thereby bypassing estate tax. Additionally, when you accrue income on the assets you hold in your trust, you are not personally responsible for paying taxes since the trust is considered a separate entity. As such, the trust will be taxed directly on any retained income and beneficiaries will be taxed on any distributions of income. This is an effective wealth transfer strategy since beneficiaries are typically in lower tax brackets.
It’s also important to note that irrevocable trusts are permanently binding; you cannot change any of the terms nor beneficiaries. Once you have handed over your wealth to the trustees, they manage and transfer it according to your specific wishes.
Consider the Gift of Time
I’m noticing more and more that it’s not as much about leaving money to your children as it is enjoying the fruits of your lifelong labors through quality time with them while you’re still alive. Experiences shared as a family will mean much more to your kids than a fancy car on their 16th birthday. Rather than safeguarding your wealth to be left after you’re gone, consider buying a vacation home where everyone can gather or taking your whole family on that dream trip to Paris. These experiences will produce lifelong memories that are likely more impactful than leaving them a larger inheritance.
Consult With a Financial Planner
Our aim at Oswego Wealth Advisors is to offer tailored advice that aligns with our firm’s principles, empowering our clients to live a fulfilling life. We invite you to connect with us for a conversation about your aspirations and how you can create a meaningful legacy for your family. Whether you’re seeking financial guidance or interested in exploring wealth strategy options, we are here to help. Reach out to schedule an introductory phone call or contact us at 503-342-2249 or email@example.com.
Craig Childress is Wealth Manager and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Oswego Wealth Advisors, an independent firm in Lake Oswego, Oregon, dedicated to helping their clients remove financial uncertainty so they can focus on what matters most. With over 35 years of experience, Craig employs a personal approach to help people find solutions to their financial needs and concerns, set goals, clarify their values, and design a plan that aligns their money with their values. He does everything with purpose and intention, and cares deeply about his clients and their families, desiring to equip and empower them to work toward financial freedom and a fulfilling life. As a Fiduciary, Craig puts his clients first, always, and provides transparent guidance that makes a significant difference in their lives. When he is not serving his clients, you can find Craig involved at River West Church, serving the community here and abroad through the Lake Oswego Rotary Club, reading, gardening, or playing his guitar. He loves spending time with his family, especially his wife, Terri, and their grown children. To learn more about Craig, connect with him on LinkedIn.