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Absentee Voting

The 2016 presidential election thus far has been truly strange, to say the least. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum nearly all Americans can agree that voting is not only important but also your civic duty. That being said, many worry that living in a state where they have not yet claimed domicile can disqualify them from voting. Fortunately, this is a common misconception. Absentee voting allows registered voters to vote via mail, the process is surprisingly  easy and all you need to know can be found Here.

The basic process works like this:
1. Register to vote in your previous state of residence
2.Fill out this form to receive the absentee ballot to download or call your county clerk or board of elections to receive one an alternate way.
3. Fill our the form and return it as it instructs.
ITS THAT EASY!

Moving to a new state can bring a host of new adventure and possibilities, but can present some challenges along the way. Everything you will need to know is outlined in The Florida Domicile Handbook, order yours up today and let the adventure begin!

 

Benefits of Moving to Florida From a high-tax State

I recently stumbled across an article that articulates the basic thesis of The Florida Domicile Handbook; and this article touches base on many of the things that are explained in-depth in The Florida Domicile Handbook.

Some of these advantages include:
• No Income tax
• An Array of Asset Protection
• Healthy Real Estate Market
• Homestead Exemption
• No State Estate Tax

One of the key takeaways from this article and the book is that the process of declaring domicile in Florida can make your life more enjoyable all across the board. The weather provides year-round access to the outdoors and endless opportunity for recreation, the vibrant wildlife and beautiful scenery can be found no where else in the world and the tax codes help keep a little more money in your pocket. Click here to read the article, and pick up your copy of The Florida Domicile Handbook for a step by step guide of your move to paradise.

 

Wheaton Wealth Partners Establishes a Year Round Office in Naples, FL

Free Book with Consult

Free Book with Consult

After five years of maintaining a seasonal office in Southwest Florida, we are excited to announce a full time Wheaton Wealth Partners office in Naples. Our partner, Rob O’Dell, and his family have made the decision to relocate to Florida.

Rob has contributed to the third edition of The Florida Domicile Handbook: Vital Information for New Florida Residents. If you are considering Florida residency, schedule a complimentary InsightMap Preview Meeting. As a thank you, we will provide you with a free copy of The Florida Domicile Handbook www.wheatonwealth.com.

Lovebug Season

The saying goes “April showers bring May flowers” however in Florida, April showers bring May lovebug season. Lovebug season occurs twice a year, May and September, and lasts about four weeks. This is when the bugs mate and can be seen attached to one another. Take a stroll through a Florida park on a hot sunny day between the hours of 10am and 6pm and you will most likely be greeted by these harmless creatures.

Purchase a copy of The Florida Domicile Handbook, 3rd Edition to learn more interesting facts about Florida and why relocating to Florida is the right choice for you!

Registering and Obtaining a Title for your Boat

Summer time is quickly approaching and with Florida being a peninsula, many residents are also boat owners. If you own and operate a motorboat (or any non-motor-powered vessel longer than sixteen feet) on Florida’s public waterways, you must register it at the local county tax collector’s office.

When you purchase a boat, either new or used, you have thirty days to apply for registration and title through the county tax collector’s office. During this grace period, you must keep a bill of sale with proof of the date of purchase aboard the watercraft. Operation of an unregistered vessel after thirty days is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Applications for watercraft registration and title certificates must be filed by the vessel owner with the county tax collector’s office either in the county where the watercraft is located or in the county where the vessel owner resides.

Unless a vessel is exempt from titling, it must be titled at the same time it is registered. Both actions can be accomplished by completing Form HSMV 82040 (available from your local tax collector’s office). Along with the completed form, a manufacturer’s statement of origin, or its equivalent, must be submitted with the applicable registration fees.

In addition, if the sales tax on the total purchase price of the vessel has not already been paid, the owner must pay the tax in Florida. If the sales tax has been paid, then the vessel owner must provide the county tax collector with a valid receipt indicating where the sales tax was paid and that it was paid in an amount equal to or greater than the applicable Florida sales tax.

Registering to Vote in Florida

You may vote in any Florida election that applies to your Florida city or county if you are registered to vote. To register, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States of America.
  • Be a Florida resident.
  • Be eighteen years old (you may preregister if you are seventeen).
  • Not have been adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting in Florida or any other state.
  • Not have been convicted of a felony without your civil rights having been restored.
  • Have a current and valid Florida driver license number or Florida identification card number. If you don’t have either, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.

How to Register:

You can register to vote at your local county supervisor of elections office. Alternatively, you can register at any Florida driver license office. A driver license examiner will ask you if you would like to apply for voter registration or change your address or party affiliation and provide you with an application of registration at the time you receive your license. Your voter registration application is then forwarded to your local county supervisor of elections office. Your official registration card will be mailed to you by your local county supervisor of elections office.

You may apply for voter registration online by downloading the form at election.dos.state.fl.us/voter-registration/voter-reg.shtml. Simply fill out, print and sign the online Florida voter registration application form. Using the address provided, mail the application to your county supervisor of elections or hand-deliver the signed form to a Florida driver license office, a voter registration agency, an armed forces recruitment office, the Florida Division of Elections or to any Florida office of the supervisor of elections.

The date your completed application is postmarked or hand-delivered to a voter registration agency will be your registration date. You must be registered at least twenty-nine days before you can vote in an election.

If your application is complete and you qualify as a voter, the supervisor of elections will mail you a voter information card. You may call your county supervisor of elections if you have not received your card within eight weeks or if you have any questions.

Florida is a closed primary state. If you wish to register to vote in a partisan primary election, you must be a registered voter in the party for which the primary is being held. Your Florida application form has a place to make your party preference known. All registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote on all ballot questions and issues and for all nonpartisan candidates. Begin the voting process online and:

  • Register to vote in the State of Florida,
  • Change your name or address,
  • Replace your defaced, lost or stolen voter registration card,
  • Register with a political party or change party affiliation,
  • Update your signature.

Advantages of an Intentionally Defective Grantor Irrevocable Trust

Joseph and Ann Sullivan had been to an attorney who recommended that they use a grantor retained annuity trust to reduce their estate in order to pass a valuable piece of income-producing commercial real estate to their daughter, Becka. They were hesitant about the attorney’s plan because, if they died during the term of the trust, the trust would terminate. The property would be back in their estates and they would not accomplish their goal. In addition, they would not be able to include generation-skipping provisions in the trust with a grantor retained annuity trust, so the property would be subject to another layer of tax in Becka’s estate.

The grantor retained annuity trust would not address their concerns. A better solution was available through the use of an intentionally defective grantor irrevocable trust. Not only would this trust allow them to transfer any future appreciation to their daughter (effectively freezing the value of the real estate in their estate), but also the plan would take effect immediately. As a result, they would have a way to substantially leverage their generation-skipping exemption and the trust would provide an opportunity for additional significant planning benefits.

One of the primary goals of any good estate plan is to reduce your exposure to taxes while leveraging your gift, estate and generation-skipping tax exemptions.

Grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) hold assets and pay income to you as the grantor for a specified term. At the end of the term, the assets pass to your children or selected beneficiaries. Because you retain a right to income from the GRAT, as long as the assets’ growth exceeds the income payment, you are able to leverage your giving ability by discounting the value of the gift assets—thereby reducing any taxes due on the gift.

Another type of grantor trust that provides an opportunity for leveraging and receiving tax benefits, while keeping the trust property out of your estate, is the intentionally defective grantor irrevocable trust (IDGIT).

As part of the Internal Revenue Code since 1954, grantor trust rules stipulate that, if a trust document contains certain provisions, the trust’s income will be taxed to the trust’s creator—the grantor—rather than to the trust itself. Congress devised the rules thinking no sensible taxpayer would want to pay a trust’s tax bill, especially because individual tax rates at that time were higher than trust tax rates and the grantor cannot be a beneficiary of a grantor trust. But now, income tax rates are much lower than they were in 1954 and, thus, for someone focused more on estate taxes, a grantor trust, an IDGIT, can substantially increase the wealth passed to heirs.

IDGIT Basics

An IDGIT is simply a type of irrevocable trust drafted to trigger the grantor trust rules and force the grantor, rather than the trust, to pay income tax on trust income. That’s the “intentionally defective” part. Assets are moved into and become owned by the trust. The positive result is that those assets, and their future appreciation, are outside the grantor’s taxable estate. Paying the income tax on the trust’s annual earnings further reduces the grantor’s estate while netting another benefit: 100 percent of the earnings can accumulate inside the IDGIT, to the advantage of the trust beneficiaries, who are typically the grantor’s children.

Because the IRS requires that the grantor pay the trust’s tax, that payment is a legal obligation, not a gift, so no gift tax applies. In effect, value is shifted to the trust beneficiaries at the grantor’s income tax rate. This is preferable to having the IDGIT or its beneficiaries pay the income tax while leaving value in the grantor’s estate that would later be subject to estate tax.

Drafting the trust to be defective (so that it triggers the grantor trust rules) is a simple matter for a knowledgeable attorney. One way to do this is to provide that trust principal or income may be distributed to the grantor’s spouse. This arrangement has no estate or gift tax significance, but it automatically makes the trust a grantor trust.

Another way to accomplish this is to specify that the grantor retains the power to reacquire the trust corpus by substituting other property of equivalent value or by giving someone other than the grantor or current beneficiary of the trust the power to expand the class of beneficiaries. Such power is sometimes given to the grantor’s accountant or attorney and, even though the power may never be exercised, the grantor trust rules are triggered.

A good attorney will also provide an element of control by making it possible to “turn off” the grantor trust status, in case paying tax for the IDGIT becomes a financial burden for the grantor. This can sometimes be accomplished by giving a power holder (such as the accountant or attorney in the previous example), the right to renounce the power.

Selling Assets to an IDGIT

A grantor can transfer assets into an IDGIT by either gift or sale. Making a gift consumes the grantor’s various exemptions, but, if the grantor sells an asset to the IDGIT, there is no gift and therefore no gift tax. Furthermore, there is no recognition of gain and, thus, no capital gains tax when assets are sold to an IDGIT. For tax purposes, selling an asset to an IDGIT is the same as selling an asset to oneself: no tax.

If you have highly appreciated assets you would like to remove from your estate, you could possibly avoid all capital gains taxes as well as gift taxes by selling the assets to an IDGIT that you create. To leverage the transaction, the IDGIT could pay for the assets in the form of an installment note, payable over several years. The Internal Revenue Code allows you to charge a relatively low rate of interest on the installment note. This is a decided advantage, as it enables an IDGIT that is earning a market rate of return to invest the cash flow in excess of the low-interest note payments so that it can accumulate and grow and eventually be used to pay back the note principal. Also, because of the grantor trust rules, you do not have to recognize the interest on the note. So, there is no tax deduction for the trust and there is no taxable income for you, the grantor, for interest payments on the note from the trust. However, you are still liable for taxes on the income earned by the IDGIT, including any income earned by property sold to the trust.

The excess income over the note payments may be high enough to allow you to further leverage the value of the IDGIT through the purchase of insurance or some other growth vehicle. In addition, because the grantor pays the income taxes on trust income, the trust’s return is enhanced for the beneficiaries of the trust. Best of all, the payment of income taxes by the grantor is not considered a gift for transfer purposes.

To qualify for charging a low interest rate (such as the federal mid-term rate), the note will usually be written to last from three to nine years (referred to as a “mid-term” note as it is neither short-term nor long-term). Also, it should be properly documented with reasonable terms. It is a good idea to have separate representation of the grantor and the IDGIT, including actual negotiation of the terms of sale.

GRAT Versus IDGIT

In many respects, a sale of assets on an installment note to an IDGIT is similar to a gift of assets to a GRAT. In a GRAT, the present value of the annuity payments to the grantor reduces the amount of the taxable gift, but the annuity payments, if not fully consumed, return value to the grantor’s estate. In an installment-note sale to an IDGIT, principal and interest on the note are paid back to the grantor over time and this also returns value to the grantor’s estate. However, when structured properly, using the following techniques, this repayment can be a substantially reduced amount. This, in turn, leaves more for heirs.

The Seed Gift

To help support the installment note and the viability of the strategy, it is advisable for the grantor to make a small seed gift to the IDGIT. It is generally recommended that this gift be at least 10 percent of the value of the assets to be sold. The seed property is important because the trust needs to have a measure of independence from the grantor. Also, it should not appear that the income distributed from the property sold to the trust is the sole source of funds being used to service the entire note. If the seed gift is too small, the IRS may treat the sale as a gift (not a desired result).

Sale of a Discounted Asset

The benefit of the IDGIT strategy can be further enhanced if the grantor utilizes the valuation discounts that are available for certain assets including shares in a corporation, units in a limited liability company or family limited partnership interests. Nonvoting shares, limited liability company units or limited partnership interests are given or sold to an IDGIT at their value as determined by a valuation professional. Generally, the fair market value of such interests is adjusted downward from their pro rata value of the underlying assets of the business entity. This is due to valuation discounts resulting from either lack of control, lack of marketability, or both—relative to those interests. If the interests are sold to an IDGIT, the valuation adjustment reduces the principal amount of the note while increasing the effective yield to the trust from the true value of the underlying assets.

Leverage with Life Insurance

The real power of this strategy comes when the trustee of the IDGIT uses the excess income created in the IDGIT to purchase life insurance. The income earned by the IDGIT over and above the amount needed to pay the installment note can go toward life insurance premiums on the life of the grantor, a beneficiary or some other relative. The premium payments will not result in gift taxes because the premiums are paid from trust income. The amount of insurance purchased can be substantial and can significantly increase the value of the trust assets that will eventually pass to the beneficiaries.

For example, Molly and Rick Crall (ages 70 and 66, respectively) were made aware of the fact that the anticipated excess income on the assets in their IDGIT would support a premium of $125,000 ($200,000 – $75,000) without the extra cash flow achieved through discounting or $155,000 ($200,000 – $45,000) with discounting. The smaller premium amount would be sufficient to fund a second-to-die insurance policy with a death benefit of approximately $6 million and the larger a death benefit of approximately $8.5 million, on Rick and Molly Crall (based on good health ratings and current assumptions of interest, mortality and expenses). On the death of the couple, the entire death benefit plus the value of the assets in the trust, including any direct gifts, would be available for the beneficiaries and exempt from both estate and GST tax.

Even without the discounted-sale approach, if Rick and Molly died immediately after repayment of the note at the end of year nine, the IDGIT would hold assets with underlying values in excess of $7.7 million ($1,400,000 appreciation on real estate + $390,000 seed capital and appreciation on seed capital + $6,000,000 insurance), 30 times the amount originally given as seed money to the trust and upon which the GST election was based. In other words, the $7.7 million is available for multiple generations with no further gift, estate or GST taxes, and only $250,000 of Rick and Molly’s combined $10.68 million GST tax exemption (as of 2014) was used. If Rick and Molly were to use the discounted sale approach, the total value transferred is substantially higher at more than $11.2 million.

Planning Risks

The income tax consequences of the premature death of the grantor are unknown. If the grantor dies while the installment note remains unpaid, the grantor’s estate may owe income taxes on any unrecognized gain in the transferred assets. The premise is that the IDGIT is no longer a grantor (defective) trust at the time of the grantor’s death. Therefore, the grantor’s estate would be taxed on the gain attributable to the unpaid portion of the note. On the other hand, it can also be argued that the grantor’s death should not be treated as a taxable event and the tax basis in the transferred assets would be carried over to the trust or its beneficiaries in the event of a subsequent sale. Whether gain should be recognized upon a grantor’s death is an unresolved issue at this point. However, in many instances the prospect of income taxation will not be significant to the beneficiaries of the IDGIT. In any event, if the beneficiaries sell assets, they would be subject to capital gains tax.

Another possibility is that the note will be considered what is called income in respect of a decedent, in which case the recipient of the note payments is subject to income tax on the remaining payments. Thus, like a GRAT, the note term should not extend beyond the grantor’s life expectancy; if it does, adverse tax consequences may apply. It is also possible that the grantor’s death will have no adverse income tax consequences. This is an unsettled area of the law.

Update on Florida’s Continued Growth

A majority of Florida’s biggest landowners are in construction and timber. Because of the large chunk of land that they own, they eventually trickle down to land development and real estate. If you are interested in buying property, read first about realtors in my book on purchasing a home in Florida in the Florida Domicile Handbook.

St. Joe Company, the second largest private landowner of Florida, has made a name and reputation in real estate development and sales as well as timber. It has about 31,600 residential units and 11.6 million square feet of commercial space. From retirees to families of any size, these residential communities, always built near a body of water – either river or sea – epitomize Florida’s tropical living paradise.

Meanwhile, Foley Timber Co has just recently finalized a plan to use the land for development and agricultural preservation. The involved communities are highly anticipating the fruition of these plans, bringing tremendous benefits to the environment and mostly to Florida’s economy and its residents.

What does this all mean for Florida?

It means that the real estate market in Florida, according to the Florida Domicile Handbook, is not only one of the most desirable locations in the world, but is situated in an economically stable and promising environment.

Business in Florida is good as noted by the continued projects for real estate development as done by St. Joe Comapny and Foley Timber Comany. This is also one of the reasons why one of the top three fields in Florida is in construction trades.

Investing in Florida is smart. The climate is business friendly as well as invariably tropical. My book, the Florida Domicile Handbook explains in detail Florida taxes, exmptions and those levied on business and properties.

Legoland continues Florida’s Boom

Does a theme park of plastic buildings made for the enjoyment of kids impact the value of land, support economic rise through investors and increase employment opportunities?

Yes, it does!

This is what Legoland is expected to do and anticipated to bring into Florida when it opens later this year. Creating about 1,000 jobs, it is yet another testament to Florida’s growth rate which is double the national average.

The theme park career opportunities add up to the other job options flourishing in Florida. Computer and technology, health care and construction trades are likewise making a splash in Florida careers.

I include several useful resources and statisctical information in my book, the Florida Domicile Handbook, that will help you determine whether relocating your business to Florida is worth the investment.

When it comes to fun things to do, Florida residents are never sedentary. With diverse activities available to its equally diverse residents, Florida offers sophisticated shopping destinations, cutural arts attractions, and golf courses scattered throughout the state. This on top of the family favorites of theme parks, beaches to swim in and other water-related activities.

To your advantage, the Florida Domicile Handbook includes many factoids on points of interest around Florida including demographic information and historical facts broken into geographic sections.

To learn more about the benefits of living the Sunshine State, get a copy of the Florida Domicile Handbook. It has sidebars with nuggets of information that explain why Florida is the ideal place to raise a family, have a career and invest in the economy.