Hazards of Basing an Estate Plan on Successive Life Estates

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2009-09-18
Authors
Harl, Neil
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Recent reviews of two fact situations, hundreds of miles apart and both the products of planning a half century or more ago, illustrate the hazards of using a deceptively simple estate plan – basing the plan on successive life estates.1 The strategy often involves unexpected federal estate tax consequences,2 federal gift tax problems,3 income tax basis complications4 and assorted problems relating to like-kind exchanges, involuntary conversions and easements, to mention just a few of the more likely events occurring during the term of the life estates. Although often viewed as more complex (and costly to set up), a carefully drafted trust generally provides a more satisfactory platform for intergenerational transfers than successive life estates.

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