Summary: Proposed regulations signal death of a popular estate tax savings technique.
For approximately 25 years, wealthy individuals and families have retained estate planners to create corporations, limited partnerships, and LLCs to own and hold assets including family-controlled businesses, real property, mineral interests and securities with the objective of reducing estate tax liability. However, proposed IRS regulations effectively eliminate the use of valuation discounts in this context. Until now, a valuation discount was available when an ownership interest in one of these entities was valued less for estate and gift tax purposes than the actual value of the underlying assets. A qualified appraisal was needed to substantiate the discount, which was usually for lack of control and/or lack of marketability. The size of the discount depended on many factors, but ranged as high as 50%. Now that valuation discounts will no longer be available, the golden age of family limited partnerships and family LLCs may have ended. However, family-owned business entities are still useful for other reasons including centralization of management and asset protection planning. This is the time for individuals and families who have established these types of business entities to take a fresh look at whether to keep, reconfigure, or eliminate them.
 The new regulations clarify the application of Section 2704 of the Internal Revenue Code.
 Also known as the minority interest discount.
Thomas J. Bouman