Tax Court Approves Georgia-Grown FLPs

 By Rose Drupiewski

In a recent decision involving a Georgia family and Georgia family limited partnerships, the U.S. Tax Court upheld estate tax benefits claimed by the family.

A family limited partnership (“FLP”) is a form of business created by family members that, in addition to providing important business, asset protection and other non-tax benefits, may reduce a family’s total estate tax liability.  The estate tax benefit arises from the recognition that a partnership interest is less valuable than direct ownership of the partnership’s assets.  Thus, for estate tax purposes, certain valuation discounts may be available when determining the value of a partnership interest.

In attempting to defeat the tax benefits of FLPs, the IRS often relies on section 2036.  If successfully applied, section 2036 ignores the transfer of assets to a partnership, and therefore the decedent’s estate is taxed on the value of the partnership assets as if the decedent had never transferred such assets to the partnership.  In effect, all valuation discounts are ignored that would otherwise be available by virtue of the partnership structure.  Generally, section 2036 will not apply if a partner transfers assets to the partnership in a “bona fide sale for full and adequate consideration.”  A decedent’s estate may demonstrate that a transfer is bona fide if the decedent had valid nontax reasons for forming the partnership.

In Estate of Beatrice Kelly v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2012-73, the decedent was an elderly woman from Rabun County, Georgia.  The decedent was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and her four children were appointed to act as her co-guardians by reason of her mental disability.  Subsequent to their appointment as her co-guardians, the children discovered that the decedent’s will did not divide her estate equally among them, and they sought a way to provide for an equal division of the decedent’s assets.  The decedent owned 27 parcels of real estate, including two rock quarries, a subdivision with rental homes, a post office, and a rural property with public access.  The Tax Court found that the real estate properties raised liability concerns for the decedent, as evidenced by a previous accident occurring at one of the quarries that resulted in personal injuries, and public traffic through the post office, subdivision and rural property.

The children, as co-guardians, sought the advice of an attorney on how to achieve an equal division of the decedent’s assets.  The attorney advised the children that they could achieve this goal by acting on behalf of the decedent to create four separate FLPs, transferring the decedent’s assets to such FLPs, and transferring the partnership interests to themselves prior to the decedent’s death, such that the decedent’s will would not control the division of such assets.

The Tax Court found that there were valid nontax reasons for formation of the FLPs.  These nontax reasons included effective management of the decedent’s real estate and equal distribution of assets among the children.  As a result, the Tax Court held that the transfer of assets to the FLPs was bona fide and section 2036 did not apply.  The holding of this case is an important reminder that FLPs can provide significant estate tax benefits to families when there are legitimate nontax reasons for forming them.

Explore posts in the same categories: Business Planning, Estate Planning, Estate Tax

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