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Use of Disclaimers in Pre and Post-Mortem Estate Planning

Disclaimers can be extremely useful in estate planning. A person who disclaims property is treated as never having received the property for gift, estate or income tax purposes. This is significant, since the actual receipt of the same property followed by a gratuitous transfer would result in a taxable gift. Although Wills frequently contain express language advising a beneficiary of a right to disclaim, such language is gratuitous, since a beneficiary may always disclaim.

For a disclaimer to achieve the intended federal tax result, it must constitute a qualified disclaimer under IRC §2518. If the disclaimer is not a qualified disclaimer, the disclaimant is treated as having received the property and then having made a taxable gift. Treas. Regs. §25.2518-1(b). Under the EPTL, as well as under most states’ laws, the person disclaiming is treated as if he had predeceased the donor, or died before the date on which the transfer creating the interest was made. Neither New York nor Florida is among the ten states which have adopted the Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act (UDPIA). Continue reading

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