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Todd Villarrubia

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What Is IRS Form 706 and Why Should Someone File It?

Posted On: June 19, 2024

By: Todd Villarrubia

Todd M. Villarrubia, an authority in wealth planning and preservation, brings over 30 years of in-depth, experience to the complex challenges of safeguarding familial and individual wealth. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, his expertise is not only recognized in the local community but also reverberates within the legal industry.
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Over the past few years, there have been several private letter rulings of taxpayers essentially begging the IRS to allow them to file a late (or extremely late) IRS Form 706 to elect portability.

IRS Form 706 Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return has become a hot-button issue in the estate planning and tax worlds. A recent article appearing in Forbes addressing this issue, “How To Avoid Faulty Advice On IRS Form 706 And The Portability Election,” makes it very clear this is one to get right from the start.

The IRS was so overwhelmed by the number of private letter ruling requests it issued a rule of its own to extend the ability to make the portability election to on or before the fifth anniversary of the decedent’s date of death.

What’s the issue? Portability allows a surviving spouse to claim their late spouse’s unused tax exclusion amount. It’s known as the Deceased Spouse Unused Exclusion Amount or DSUEA. The important thing to know is the DSUEA isn’t an automatic process. The spouse must complete Part 6 of IRS Form 706, and the portability election becomes effective as of the DOD of the deceased spouse.

This allows the surviving spouse to shelter more assets upon the other spouse’s death. It effectively locks in the deceased spouse’s exemption amount and gives the surviving spouse a greater chance of not needing to pay estate taxes upon the second spouse's death.

This option will become even more critical in 2026 if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expires and the federal gift and estate tax exemption amounts will return to 2018 levels. With inflation, estate planning attorneys expect the revised exemption amount to be roughly $6 million.

Determining the form is unnecessary because the estate is not large enough to reach the exemption level, or it’s a waste of time to prepare the form, which could be an expensive mistake. The number of requests for private letter rulings clearly proves the value of ensuring this form is completed when administering an estate for a deceased spouse.

Speak with your estate planning attorney to learn if your estate will be impacted if the federal estate tax exemption returns to prior values. Planning ahead for the loss of a spouse and potential changes in estate tax liabilities will require time and resources to be well spent. The cost of a private letter ruling or paying federal estate taxes is far more costly.

Reference: Forbes (May 21, 2024) “How To Avoid Faulty Advice On IRS Form 706 And The Portability Election”

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