Wills and Trusts

Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP

Effects of limitations on Crummey Withdrawal Rights: in terrorem clauses and Mandatory Arbitration provisions

Leave a comment

What is the effect of a mandatory arbitration and in terrorem clause on Crummey rights? In CCA 20120826 an issue was whether purported withdrawal rights were sufficient to create a present interest. The CCA states:

To be a present interest, a withdrawal right must be legally enforceable. For example, if a trust provides for withdrawal rights, and the trustee refuses to comply with a beneficiary’s withdrawal demand, the beneficiary must be able to go before a state court to enforce it. See Cristofani v. Commissioner, 97 T.C. 74 (1991); Restatement of the Law of Trusts § 197 (Nature of Remedies of Beneficiary); Bogert, Trusts and Trustees Vol. 41, § 861 (Remedies of the Beneficiary and Trustee).

As a matter of public policy, the federal courts are the proper venue for determining an individual’s federal tax status, and the federal courts are not bound by the determinations of a private forum (such as Other Forum) concerning such status. Alford v. United States, 116 F.3d 334 (8th Cir. 1997). Likewise, as a matter of public policy, a State court will not take judicial notice of a private forum’s (or group’s or sect’s) construction and determination of State law pertaining to a trust agreement, such as the Trust in this case. Cite 2. These determinations are strictly within the purview of the State courts. Cite 3; Cite 4.

Under State law, a trust clause may prohibit a beneficiary from seeking civil redress. Cite 5. Although the State legislature made a public policy decision to allow a beneficiary to make certain inquiries without fear of risking forfeiture, these “safe harbors” are not relevant here. Cite 6.

Under the terms of the Trust in this case, a beneficiary cannot enforce his withdrawal right in a State court. He may only press his demand before an Other Forum and be subject to the Other Forum’s Rules. Notwithstanding any provisions in the Trust to the contrary, the Other Forum will not recognize State or federal law. If the beneficiary proceeds to a State court, his existing right to income and/or principal for his health, education, maintenance and support will immediately terminate. He will not receive any income or principal for his marriage, to buy a home or business, to enter a trade, or for any other purpose. He will not have withdrawal rights in the future, and his contingent inheritance rights will be extinguished. Thus, a beneficiary faces dire consequences if he seeks legal redress. As a practical matter, a beneficiary is foreclosed from enforcing his withdrawal right in a State court of law or equity.

Withdrawal rights such as these are not the legally enforceable rights necessary to constitute a present interest. Because the threat of severe economic punishment looms over any beneficiary contemplating a civil enforcement suit, the withdrawal rights are illusory. Consequently, no annual exclusion under § 2503(b) is allowable for any of the withdrawal rights. See Rev. Rul. 85-24, 1985-1 C.B. 329; Rev. Rul. 81-7, 1981-1 C.B. 474.

Is the ruling correct? In Rev. Rul. 83-108 notice was not given in the year of the gift at all, but rather was given in the next year. No notice is arguably a greater obstacle to the exercise of withdrawal rights than mandatory arbitration or an in terrorem clause. On the other hand, may a cut off of rights be so substantial as to de facto limit a purported withdrawal right?

Turney P. Berry
Louisville, Kentucky

Author: robmalinesq

I am an estate planning and probate attorney in Memphis, Tennessee.

Leave a reply. Please note that although this blog may be helpful in informing clients and others who have an interest in information privacy and security, it is not intended to be legal advice. The information on this blog also should not be relied upon to form an attorney-client relationship.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s