senate Bill S5519

Modifies certain formulas construed to refer to the federal estate and generation-skipping transfer tax on estates of decedents dying during 2010

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Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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actions

  • 27 / May / 2011
    • REFERRED TO JUDICIARY
  • 07 / Jun / 2011
    • 1ST REPORT CAL.1084
  • 13 / Jun / 2011
    • 2ND REPORT CAL.
  • 14 / Jun / 2011
    • ADVANCED TO THIRD READING
  • 16 / Jun / 2011
    • SUBSTITUTED BY A7729

Summary

Modifies certain formulas construed to refer to the federal estate and generation-skipping transfer tax on estates of decedents dying during 2010.

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Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A7729
Versions:
S5519
Legislative Cycle:
2011-2012
Law Section:
Estates, Powers and Trusts Law
Laws Affected:
Amd ยง2-1.13, EPT L

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER:S5519

TITLE OF BILL:
An act
to amend the estates, powers and trusts law, in relation to certain
formula clauses to be construed to refer to the federal estate and
generation-skipping transfer tax laws applicable to estates of
decedents dying after December 31, 2009 and before January 1, 2011

This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of
the Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of her
Surrogate's Court Advisory Committee.

This measure would amend section 2-1.13 of the Estates, Powers and
Trusts Law ("EPTL"), which was added in 2010 in response to the
repeal of the Federal estate tax for decedents dying in 2010 and the
repeal of the generation-skipping transfer ("GST") tax in 2010. L.
2010, c. 349. In the view of our Advisory Committee, chapter 349
needs clarification in light of Federal election options.

According to the bill summary accompanying the 2010 enactment:

"Many wills, trusts and beneficiary forms prepared prior to 2010 were
based on formula dispositions in the case of married testators. The
aim was typically to leave as much as possible on the first spouse's
death to a trust or to individuals other than the surviving spouse
(typically issue of the decedent) without causing estate tax on the
first spouse's death. This was commonly referred to as a "credit
shelter bequest", since the amount involved ($3.5 million for
decedent dying in 2009) would be sheltered from estate tax on the
first death by a "unified credit" allowed under the Internal Revenue
Code. The credit shelter bequest is not subject to estate tax at the
surviving spouse's death. "The credit shelter bequest is usually
phrased in terms of the maximum amount that can pass free of Federal
estate tax on the first death, or in terms of like effect. The same
results were obtained with formulas leaving a spouse outright or in a
form qualifying for a marital deduction against the Federal estate
tax, the minimum amount necessary to avoid imposition of an estate
tax on the first spouse's death. With repeal of the estate tax, these
formula clauses could be interpreted to leave the entire estate in a
credit shelter disposition and nothing to the spouse or in a form
qualifying for a marital deduction. This conclusion is reached since
the entire estate and not just the part formerly sheltered by
statutory credits can now pass under a credit shelter disposition
without there being any estate tax.

The Federal generation-skipping transfer tax is also temporarily
repealed for transfers in 2010. Many wills and testamentary
instruments also left to grandchildren (or to trusts that would
eventually pass to grandchildren) maximum amounts allowable without
imposition of a Federal generation skipping transfer tax. With

repeal, this amount is now unlimited, and may pass to grandchildren
to the detriment of the decedent's children."

Thus, in order to prevent unintended consequences of estate and GST
tax repeal in the form of distorted formula dispositions, the EPTL
was modified to construe certain formula bequests or other
dispositions of property as if they were made pursuant to the
provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, as those
provisions were in effect on December 31, 2009.

The bill summary also indicated that (at the time the summary was
prepared) there was still a possibility that Congress might reinstate
an estate tax or a GST tax for 2010 retroactively. As a result, the
EPTL was modified to contemplate a retroactive estate or GST tax by
providing that the statutory rules of construction would not apply if
the Federal estate tax "becomes applicable" before January 1, 2011.

As noted, our Advisory Committee believes that the 2010 legislation
should be clarified. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance
Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the "2010 Act:),
retroactively reinstates the Federal estate tax, with a $5,000,000
estate tax exemption amount and 35% estate tax rate for 2010. The
2010 Act also includes an option to elect out of estate tax treatment
and be subject to a carry-over basis regime. The GST tax is also
retroactively reinstated, with a $5,000,000 exemption amount and 0%
tax rate for 2010.

Pursuant to EPTL section 2-1.13(a)(4), the statutory rules of
construction will not apply if the Federal estate tax or GST tax
"becomes applicable" before January 1, 2011.
Accordingly, if an estate is subject to estate tax under the 2010 Act,
the statutory rules of construction will not apply, and formulaic
provisions will be keyed to the $5,000,000 exemption amount However,
the result is unclear if an election is made not to have the federal
estate tax apply. In such a case, the estate tax would not "be
applicable" to the particular estate at hand.

If the estate tax must be applicable to the case at hand in order for
the statutory construction rules not to apply, there may be an
anomalous result if carry-over basis treatment is elected: in the
estate tax default treatment scenario, a $5,000,000 exemption would
apply in the interpretation of formula clauses. However, if carry-over
basis treatment is chosen and the statutory construction rules are
applicable, formula clauses may be interpreted with a $3,500,000
exemption (because the EPTL refers to Federal law as of December 31,
2009). This election option could present a very difficult dilemma
for a fiduciary, typically subject to duties of impartiality, if the
fiduciary's election might determine a funding amount.

The modifications to the EPTL enacted in 2010 were drafted to
anticipate a possible retroactive estate/GST tax; however, the issue
of an election about whether to have the estate tax apply was not

addressed. Our Advisory Committee believes that a modification to the
EPTL is necessary in order to effect consistency in the
interpretation of formula clauses (whether an estate is subject to an
estate tax or a modified carry-over basis regime), and to clarify that
formula clauses will be interpreted with reference to a $5,000,000
federal estate and GST tax exemption amount.

We believe that the statute should be clarified regarding its
beneficiary designations. EPTL 2-1.13(a)(1) and (2) both provide:

"If by reason of the death of a decedent property passes or is
acquired under a beneficiary designation, in the case of a will or
trust of a decedent...that contains a bequest or other disposition
based upon the amount of property that can be sheltered
from...tax..." (Italics added)

We believe the addition of the phrase "in the case of" leads to
ambiguity as to whether the statute applies to beneficiary
designations generally, or only those designations that are payable
to an estate or trust. The ambiguity regarding the statute's
application to beneficiary designations is compounded because the
reference to "beneficiary designation" does not consistently appear
in the statute with each reference to a "will or trust".
Accordingly, we recommend that the phrase "in the case of" be deleted
from the statute
and that the reference to "beneficiary designation" appear
consistently with each reference to a will or trust. These changes
are necessary to clarify that the statute applies generally to
beneficiary designations.

We recommend clarification of the statute regarding bequests and other
dispositions that refer to the GST tax exemption. In light of the
2010 Act, we believe that language in EPTL section 2-1.13(a)(2)
regarding direct skips to natural persons should be removed.
As a result of the clarification provided by the 2010 Act regarding
the GST tax regime, the EPTL provisions should reach all GST type
transfers. The reference to direct skips to natural persons is
therefore unnecessary and confusing and should be removed.

This measure also would extend the time for bringing a judicial
proceeding. The EPTL currently allows a judicial proceeding to be
brought within 12 months following the death of the testator or
grantor. Since Federal law was not clarified until December 2010, it
is urged that the time for bringing a proceeding be extended until
the end of the later to expire of (1) 24 months after death and (2)
six months from the date of enactment of this measure (i.e., the date
on which the Governor signs it into law). Indeed, with a 12 month
time-frame, the time to bring a proceeding may have already expired
with regard to decedents who died early in 2010. We also recommend
that the court have discretion to further extend the time for filing
a proceeding (parallel to the discretion granted to the court
pursuant to EPTL Section 2-1.11 "Renunciation of property interest").

Notably, other states, including Virginia, have introduced legislation
to clarify the operation of state formulaic construction statutes, in
light of the 2010 Act. The proposal introduced in Virginia on January
20, 2011 also seeks to effect consistency in the interpretation of
formula clauses (whether an estate is subject to an estate tax or a
modified carry-over basis regime), and to clarify that formula
clauses will be interpreted with reference to a $5,000,000 federal
estate and GST tax exemption amount. The Virginia bill also includes
a provision that will extend the time for bringing a judicial
proceeding, beyond the original time frame of within 12 months of
death.

This measure would take effect immediately and apply to wills and
trusts of decedents dying after December 31, 2009 and before January
1, 2011.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
None. New proposal.

view bill text
                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  5519

                       2011-2012 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                              May 27, 2011
                               ___________

Introduced  by Sen. BONACIC -- (at request of the Office of Court Admin-
  istration) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed  to  be
  committed to the Committee on Judiciary

AN  ACT  to  amend  the  estates,  powers and trusts law, in relation to
  certain formula clauses to be construed to refer to the federal estate
  and generation-skipping transfer tax laws  applicable  to  estates  of
  decedents dying after December 31, 2009 and before January 1, 2011

  THE  PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Section 2-1.13 of the estates, powers and  trusts  law,  as
added by chapter 349 of the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows:
S 2-1.13 Certain formula clauses to be construed to refer to the federal
           estate  and  generation-skipping transfer tax laws applicable
           to estates of decedents dying  after  December  thirty-first,
           two  thousand  nine  and  before  January first, two thousand
           eleven
  (a)(1) If by reason of the death of a decedent property passes  or  is
acquired  under  a  beneficiary  designation, [in the case of] a will or
trust of a decedent who dies after December thirty-first,  two  thousand
nine  and  before  January  first,  two thousand eleven, that contains a
bequest or other disposition based upon the amount of property that  can
be  sheltered from federal estate tax by referring to the "unified cred-
it", "estate tax exemption", "applicable exclusion amount",  "applicable
exemption  amount",  "applicable  credit  amount",  "marital deduction",
"maximum marital deduction", "unlimited marital deduction",  "charitable
deduction",  "maximum  charitable deduction" or similar words or phrases
relating to the federal estate tax, or  that  measures  a  share  of  an
estate or trust based on the amount that can pass free of federal estate
taxes,  or  that  is  otherwise  based on a similar provision of federal
estate tax THEN SUCH BENEFICIARY DESIGNATION, WILL  OR  TRUST  shall  be
deemed to refer to the federal estate tax law as applied with respect to
decedents  dying  [on  December  thirty-first, two thousand nine] IN TWO
THOUSAND TEN, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER AN ELECTION IS MADE NOT TO HAVE  THE
FEDERAL ESTATE TAX APPLY TO A PARTICULAR ESTATE.

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD11472-02-1

S. 5519                             2

  (2)  If  by  reason  of  the death of a decedent property passes or is
acquired under a beneficiary designation, [in the case  of]  a  will  or
trust  of  a decedent who dies after December thirty-first, two thousand
nine and before January first, two  thousand  eleven,  that  contains  a
bequest  or other disposition based upon the amount of property that can
be sheltered from federal generation-skipping transfer tax by  referring
to  the  "generation-skipping  transfer tax exemption", "GST exemption",
"generation-skipping transfer tax", "GST tax" or similar words or phras-
es that measures a share of an estate or trust based on the amount  that
can  pass free of federal generation-skipping transfer taxes, or that is
otherwise based on a similar provision  of  federal  generation-skipping
transfer  tax  law[;  or  if such bequest would have passed as a "direct
skip" to a "natural person" within the meaning of such terms under chap-
ter 13 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 if the decedent had died  on
December  thirty-first, two thousand nine], then such BENEFICIARY DESIG-
NATION, will or trust shall be deemed to refer to  the  federal  genera-
tion-skipping  transfer tax law in effect [on December thirty-first, two
thousand nine] IN TWO THOUSAND TEN, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER AN ELECTION IS
MADE NOT TO HAVE THE FEDERAL ESTATE TAX APPLY TO A PARTICULAR ESTATE.
  (3) This paragraph shall not apply to a BENEFICIARY DESIGNATION,  will
or trust that[:
  (A)  is  executed or amended after December thirty-first, two thousand
nine; or
  (B) Manifests] MANIFESTS an intent that a contrary  rule  shall  apply
[if  the  decedent  dies  on a date on which there is no then applicable
federal estate tax or generation-skipping transfer tax].
  [(4) The reference to January first, two thousand eleven in this para-
graph shall, if a federal estate tax or generation-skipping transfer tax
becomes applicable before that date, be construed to  refer  instead  to
the  first  date  on which the federal estate tax or generation-skipping
transfer tax becomes applicable.]
  (b) The executor, trustee or other interested person under a BENEFICI-
ARY DESIGNATION, will or trust referred to  in  paragraph  (a)  of  this
section  may  bring  a  proceeding  to  determine  whether the [decedent
intended that the references described in such  paragraph  be  construed
with  respect  to the law as it existed on the decedent's date of death,
without regard to the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section] BENE-
FICIARY DESIGNATION, WILL OR TRUST MANIFESTS A CONTRARY INTENTION WITHIN
THE MEANING OF SUBPARAGRAPH THREE OF PARAGRAPH (A) OF THIS SECTION.   In
any such proceeding, extrinsic evidence may be admitted to establish the
decedent's intent.  [Such proceeding]
  (C)  ANY PROCEEDING DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH (B) OF THIS SECTION must be
commenced [within twelve] BY THE DATE WHICH IS  (1)  TWENTY-FOUR  months
following  the DATE OF death of the DECEDENT, testator or grantor OR (2)
SIX MONTHS FOLLOWING THE DAY ON WHICH THE CHAPTER OF  THE  LAWS  OF  TWO
THOUSAND  ELEVEN  WHICH  AMENDED  THIS PARAGRAPH BECAME A LAW, WHICHEVER
DATE IS LATER, and not at any  time  thereafter.    NOTWITHSTANDING  THE
FOREGOING,  THE  TIME  TO COMMENCE SUCH A PROCEEDING MAY BE EXTENDED, IN
THE DISCRETION OF THE COURT, ON A PETITION SHOWING REASONABLE CAUSE  AND
ON NOTICE TO SUCH PERSONS AND IN SUCH MANNER AS THE COURT MAY DIRECT.
  S  2.  This  act  shall take effect immediately and shall be deemed to
have been in full force and effect on and after January 1, 2010, and the
provisions of this act shall apply to wills and trusts of decedents  who
die after December 31, 2009 and before January 1, 2011.

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