Share

Madison Wisconsin's Estate Planning Blog

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Pros and Cons of Powers of Appointments

An often misunderstood but common estate planning tool that can appear in estate planning documents is the power of appointment. Not to be confused with a power of attorney (the document that allows you to delegate certain powers to an agent to act on your behalf while you are still living), a power of appointment can be an incredibly useful tool if used properly and knowledgeably.

A well-considered power of appointment allows you to maintain significant flexibility in your estate plan now and in the future, even when that estate plan is otherwise considered irrevocable under the law. Though hundreds of pages of books, scholarly articles, court decisions, and tax regulations have been written on the topic of powers of appointment, this newsletter can help you identify opportunities in which powers of appointment may be useful and recognize cases in which they can create negative consequences.

What Is a Power of Appointment?

Broadly speaking, a power of appointment is a right granted in a legal document, including in a will or a trust, by an individual (the donor) to another person (the donee or the power holder). This granted power allows the donee to name someone else as a recipient (the appointee) of all or a portion of the donor’s money and property in the future. The power holder is not required to exercise the power. Rather, the power holder simply has the option to exercise it. If the power is left unexercised, then the money and property will pass to those individuals or entities who were originally named in the will or trust as the beneficiaries and in the amounts originally specified. This tool essentially allows for the person making a will or trust to postpone the decision of who should receive the donor’s money and property, and grants such decision-making power to someone else who may be in a better position in the future to determine who will receive it.

General Versus Limited Powers of Appointment

In trust law and tax law, there are two types of powers of appointment: (1) a general power of appointment and (2) a limited power of appointment (also known as special or nongeneral powers of appointment). A general power of appointment is, with only a few exceptions, a power that is exercisable in favor of the decedent, their estate, their creditors, or the creditors of their estate.[1] If a power of appointment does not fit within the definition of a general power, then it is, by default, a limited power of appointment. A common example of a limited power of appointment is a power that is limited to distributions for health, education, maintenance, or support of a beneficiary (called the HEMS standard). Another example is a power granted to a power holder to distribute the property among a limited group of individuals, for example, among only “your descendants.”

Lifetime Versus Testamentary Powers of Appointment

An additional characteristic that can be applied to a power of appointment is whether the power is to be a lifetime power of appointment or a testamentary power of appointment. The difference has to do with the particular moment that the power can be exercised by the power holder. For example, if a power of appointment gives the power holder a power to distribute property among grandchildren only while the power holder is alive, this would be a lifetime power of appointment. However, because this is also a limited power of appointment, we can refer to this power as a lifetime limited power of appointment. Similarly, if a general power of appointment is granted, but only for life, then it would be a lifetime general power of appointment.

On the other hand, if a power of appointment (either limited or general) is granted to a power holder that can only be exercised at the power holder's death, then this would be considered a testamentary power of appointment. Typically, a testamentary power of appointment must be exercised through a provision in the powerholder’s will or trust that specifies how the property subject to the power is to be distributed upon the power holder's death. Thus, someone could be granted either a testamentary limited power of appointment or a lifetime limited power of appointment, or a testamentary general power of appointment or a lifetime general power of appointment.

Why Use Powers of Appointment?

There are a variety of reasons why someone might want to use a power of appointment in their estate plan, including tax considerations, asset protection, and a desire for flexibility. The following are a few examples that can help illustrate how and why a power of appointment may be used:

  1. Sarah creates a trust that is designed to hold her property for the benefit of Dave, her only son, for his lifetime, and which will then pass to his children upon his death. However, three of her grandchildren have a history of drug use, terrible spending habits, and have even attempted to financially exploit her in the past. Although Sarah wants only her grandchildren to benefit from the trust after her son dies, she wants to allow Dave to determine how much (if anything) should go to each of her grandchildren, depending on how they conduct their lives in the future and what their needs are. Sarah’s estate planning attorney suggests that she grant Dave a testamentary limited power of appointment in her trust that allows Dave to distribute the remainder of the trust property according to how he sees fit among his children, in equal or unequal shares at his death. This will require Dave to draft a will or trust that includes a provision that specifies how the remainder of Sarah’s trust will be divided among his children at his death. Including such a power allows Sarah to maintain some control over who will receive her property, but also grants some important flexibility in her estate plan to her son so that he can take a second look at the family circumstances years after Sarah has passed away.
  2. Marty died, leaving a trust that owns a significant amount of quickly-appreciating corporate stock shares. His only daughter Betty is the income beneficiary of the trust and enjoys the stock dividends that are paid out to her every year. Betty’s children are the remainder beneficiaries of the trust. Betty is in her late eighties and is experiencing failing health. Before Marty died, he amended his trust to ensure that it contained a provision that granted Betty a testamentary general power of appointment over the trust. As a result, upon Betty’s death, the stock in the trust receives a full step up in tax basis under current federal tax law, thus eliminating the capital gains taxes that would have otherwise been due on the sale of the stock in the hands of Betty’s children after her death. Significant tax savings are achieved by including this type of a power of appointment.
  3. John is Karen’s second husband. Karen has children from a previous marriage. John has never been married and has no children of his own. Some of Karen’s children have been very nice to John while others have been quite mean to him. Karen has significant wealth and intends to ultimately leave it to her children; however, she wants to provide for John throughout the remainder of his life if he outlives her. To that end, Karen’s estate plan establishes a trust for John that is protected from estate taxes at her death. The income generated on the trust property is paid out to John for his life, with the principal of the property payable to her children at John’s death. However, she grants John a testamentary limited power of appointment over certain company stock held in the trust so that upon his death, he can determine who among Karen’s children will receive that stock and in what shares. Karen explains this to her children so that they get the message that if they mistreat John after she is gone, he has the authority to reduce the value of their share of her trust by at least some degree. Her hope is that this will incentivize her children to treat John with a certain level of respect that they sometimes have struggled with during her life.

These examples illustrate just a few of the more common reasons why and how powers of appointment can be creatively used to build flexibility into an estate plan. There are many other ways to use these incredibly useful tools. It is important to note, however, that they can also create significant risk and lead to unintended consequences.

For example, what if John, in the example above, turned out to be vindictive and, out of spite, exercised his testamentary limited power of appointment to grant everything to one of Karen’s children who had a terrible gambling problem, and who then lost everything in one weekend in Atlantic City? Certainly, this would not have been what Karen had intended. But, a power of appointment can lead to this type of result if the power holder chooses to exercise their power irresponsibly.

How Can This Information Help You?

Now that you have a better grasp on the uses and limitations of this powerful estate planning tool, you can better identify in your own circumstances the situations that would call for use of a power of appointment. You can also identify the existence of powers of appointment in your own estate planning documents or in the documents of your loved ones, and consider whether these are in fact appropriate for the circumstances.

If you would like to learn more about how powers of appointment can be used to help you achieve your estate planning goals while maintaining significant flexibility in your planning, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are eager to help you make the best planning decisions for your unique needs. Give us a call today.


[1] I.R.C. § 2041(b)(1).



Blog Categories

401(k)

AB Trust

ABLE Program

Abuse

Addiction

Adult Beneficiaries

Advancement of share

Agent

Aging

Alcohol abuse

Amendment of Trust

Annual exclusion

Annuity

Armed Service Personnel

Asset Protection

Attorney

Avoid Probate

Basis

Beneficiary

Beneficiary Designations

Birth

Business Succession

Buy-Sell Agreement

Capacity

Caregiver

Celebrity

Changes in life

Changes in tax law

Charitable Planning

Children

Cognitive Impairment

Community Property

Compensation

Conservatorship

Core Values

Corporate Trustee

Court

Creditor Protection

Creditors

Death

Debts

Decanting

Deed

Digital Estate Planning

Discretionary Trusts

Disinherit

Divorce

Divorce Protection

Documents

Driving

Drug abuse

Duress

Dynasty Trust

Dysfunctional Family

Education

Elder Law

Equal Division

Estate Planning

Executor

Fair Division

Family

Farming and Ranching

Fees

Fiduciary

Financial Power of Attorney

Flexibility

Fraud

Funding Your Trust

Funeral

Generational Planning

Gifting

Government Assistance

Grandchildren

GSST

Guardian

Guardianship

Health Care

Health Care Agent/Proxy

Health Savings Account

Heirlooms

Heirs

HIPAA

Holographic Will

House

Incapacity

Income Tax

Inheritance

Instruction

Insurance

Intent Letters

Internet

Inter-vivos Trusts

Intestacy

Inventory

IRA

Irrevocable Trusts

Joint Tenancy

Keepsakes

Kids

Law Firm

Lawsuits

Liability

Liability Insurance

Life Estate

Life Events

Life Insurance

Lifetime Planning

Lifetime QTIP

Lifetime QTIP Trust

Limited Liability Company

Living Probate

Living Trust

Living Will

LLC

Loans

Long-Term Care

Lottery Winnings

Marital Property

Marraige

Medicaid Planning

Meeting

Mental Illness

Minor Children

Money

Moving to/from a State

Myths

Newlyweds

NEWSLETTERS

Nursing Home

Oral Wills

Overseas Estate Planning

Parents

Partners

Payable on Death (POD)

Peace of Mind

Personal Property

Personal Representative

Pets

Physicians

Planning

Portibility

Power of Appointment

Power of Attorney

Predator Protection

Predators

Prenuptual Agreements

Privacy

Probate

Procrastination

Promises

Property

QTIP Trust

Remarraige

Rental Property

Restatement of Trust

Retirement Assets

Review

Revocable Trusts

Saving Money

Simultaneous Death

Special Needs Trusts

Spendthrift Tust

Spouse

Stand Alone Retirement Trust (SRT)

Storage of Documents

Storing Documents

Stress

Successor Trustee

Surgery

Tangible Personal Property Memorandum

Taxes

Testamentary Trusts

Theft

Timeshare

Title

Transfer of Assets

Transfer on Death (TOD)

Trust Administration

Trust Contest

Trust Funding

Trust Protector

Trustee

Trusts

Umbrella Insurance

Unborn Children

Unfinished Estate Plan

Update Planning

Vacation Poperty

Values

Will

Will Contests

Wishes

Year End Strategies

Young Families

Archived Posts

2021
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
Being Deployed? Here’s What You Need to Do
The Only Constant in Life is Change: When Circumstances Change, So Should Your Estate Plan
Beyond Wills and Trusts: 3 Documents Everyone Needs
Reconsider Outright Inheritances: How to Protect Your Heirs and Your Legacy from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Expand Your Cast to Prevent Chaos
Planning for Blended Families: Second or Later Marriages and Divorce of Beneficiaries
The Flexible Protection of Trust-Based Planning
Why “I Love You” Wills Really Don’t Say “I Love You”
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Your Guide to Better Incapacity Protection in Your Estate Plan
Are You Familiar With Community Property Trusts?: Learn How These Special Trusts Can Help Reduce Income Taxes
Modernizing an Outdated Estate Plan: What to do with a Confusing, Old Trust
Have You Considered a Dynasty Trust for Your Family’s Estate? Why You Should Think Twice Before Ruling One Out
What if you don’t die?: Why Ignoring the Importance of Incapacity Planning Can Have Serious Consequences
Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today: Why It’s Time to Talk with Your Family and Your Estate Planning Attorney
Who Will Inherit Your Financial Wisdom?: Passing on More Than Just Wealth
How Tax Reform Will Impact You and Your Estate Planning
Will My Debt Outlive Me?: Your Questions About Debt After Death Answered
Planning Your Summer Vacation?: 5 Things to Consider Now
Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan
12 Crucial Insights for Protecting Your Furry Family Members
Does Your Family Know About Your Estate Plan?: A Guide for How Much to Share and With Whom
Planning for the Financial Future of a Troubled Adult Child: Your 3-Step Guide to Creating an Informed Estate Plan
Keeping the Peace After You Are Gone: Planning With an Aim Towards Building Unity
Have You Taken Advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Planning Window?: Important Estate Planning Tips You Should Act on Now
Back-To-School Preparation: Not Just About the School Supplies- Use This Time to Revisit The Parts of Your Estate Plan That Impact Your Children Most
What Do the New 199A Regulations Mean for You?: New Choices and Opportunities for Tax Savings
Three Legal Strategies When Facing a Major Health Event: What You and Your Family Need to Know
How to Protect Your Retirement Account
2018 Midterm Elections: What Do They Mean For Your Estate Plan?: Strategic Planning Guidance in Light of the Midterm Results
Estate Planning Projects to Tackle in the New Year
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians You Can Use Too
June
3 Estate Planning Secrets the Wealthy Use That You Can Too!: Strategies to Enhance Your Success
Five Key Considerations for Your Estate Plan
Your Personal Property Memorandum: 4 Tips for Success
How to Coordinate Your Retirement and Estate Plans
How to Avoid a Disastrous Will or Trust Contest
Is Your Estate Plan Probate-Proof?
Want a Greater Sense of Purpose? Plan Your Legacy
What is Asset Protection and Do I Need It?
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan Is Set Up to Fail
Your Vacation Checklist
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Estate Planning Is Not Just About Money
Is Your Estate Plan Unfinished? Don’t Wait to Complete This Important Process!
When Equal Is Not Necessarily Fair
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
One Year After the Historic 2016 Election: Strategic Estate Planning in Uncertain Times
Funding Your Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
The Harmonious Family that Won't Fight
3 Asset Protection Tips You Can Use Now
Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners
Estate Planning is More Than Just Death Planning
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters
What to Bring to Your First Meeting with the Estate Planning Attorney
April
March
February
January
2018
September
August
July
Not Married? You’re not alone - but you still need a plan. Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes
Are Your Documents Following the Same Script? Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning
A Trust for Fluffy or Fido? Why Every Pet Parent Needs to Consider a Pet Trust Today
Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform...Still a good idea? What are the implications for your family if you don’t spend all the money?
Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business
Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family: Why You Need to Think Before You Sign
The One Thing Every New Grandparent MUST Do As Soon as Possible
How to Fix 5 Common Estate Planning Problems
How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children
Financial Planning. Tax Planning. Legacy Planning. Estate Planning - How many plans do I need?!
Why Not Just Go on NoloⓇ and Create Your Own Estate Planning Documents Cheaply?
3 Things You Must Do Once Your Divorce Is Final
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Finding the Right Fit: Questions For Prospective Wills and Trusts Attorneys
The Biggest Threat to Successful Estate Planning
Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation
Joint Tenancy Pitfalls: The ‘Simple’ Fix that Can Leave Your Family Broke
One Call You Must Make After You Buy a Home-That You’ve Probably Forgotten
3 Tips For Every New Homeowner
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
What To Do With Your Beloved Collection
Legal Considerations When Getting Your New College Student Ready to Go
Digital Afterlife- An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account
How an Estate Planning Letter of Intent Can Help Your Family
Kids and Investors Are Not the Only Options
Retirement Planning for Business Owners
Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden - Why Incapacity Planning for Business Owners is an Indispensable Component of Your Plan
March
February
2017
September
August
July
May
April
Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Inherited IRAs are Not Protected from Creditors
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians Anyone Can Use
Three Estate Planning Mistakes Farmers and Ranchers Make and How to Avoid Them
The Wrong Successor Trustee Can Derail Your Final Wishes
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
The Tragic Loss of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin: Lessons for Estate and Legacy Planning
The Three-Year Review and The Three-Year Plan
The Shocking Truth About Asset Protection Planning
The Pros and Cons of Probate
The Perils of Promises...Marlon Brando’s Story
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The IRS Took Half of Tony Soprano’s Estate: Don’t Fall into the Same Trap!
The Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning
Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S.
Stress Test Your Estate Plan
Sonny Bono’s Procrastination in Creating a Will Led to Years of Estate Battles
Skyrocketing Probate Fees – Another Reason to Avoid Probate Court
Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?
Prince’s Sad and Incredibly Expensive Mistake! (Are You Making It, Too?)
3 Powers to Consider Giving to a Trust Protector
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will: 3 Critical Mistakes
Parental Warning: If You Own Your Property this Way, You May Accidentally Disinherit Your Own Children
Over 70% of Elvis Presley’s Estate Paid in Taxes & Fees: How Can You Avoid the Same Trap?
Nosey Neighbor Nellie Can Find Out About Your Probate. Really.
Michael Jackson’s Estate Pulled into Seemingly Endless Probate Court Battles
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
Is Your Estate Plan as Stale as Last Week’s Ham Sandwich? 5 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan
March
Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?
Is a Payable on Death Account Right for You and Your Family?
Irrevocable Trust Decanting in 4 Steps
IRS Announcement: Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request
Investment, Insurance, Annuity, and Retirement Planning Considerations
If You Die Without a Will, Does Your Spouse Inherit Your Entire Estate?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
How to Minimize the (Voluntary) Federal Estate Tax with Portability
How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death
HELP! This Probate Is Taking Forever!!!
Four Steps to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person
Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently ABLE Act
Flo Jo’s Tragic Mistake: A Missing Will
5 Reasons Why Uncle Bill May Not Make a Good Trustee
Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse
5 Reasons to Embrace Estate Planning
Estate Planning: 3 Reasons We Run the Other Way
Estate Planning Basics for Newlyweds – How to Get Prepared for the Unexpected
Escape From a Bad Trust: 5 Strong Reasons to Decant Your Trust
Doris Duke’s Trustee Bilked Estate for $1M: How Well Do You Know Yours?
Don’t Leave Your Trust Unguarded: 6 Key Ways a Trust Protector Can Help You
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Who’s Going to Get It: Do You Really Know the Beneficiaries of Your Dynasty Trust?
Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries From Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Did you include your grandkids in your will? 5 Tips to Avoid Common Problems
Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?
Dennis Hopper Saves Heirs with Last Minute Estate Plan Changes
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Avoiding Guardianship When you are Incapacitated
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Who Should I Choose as a Successor Trustee
Celebrities Who Failed To Recognize Unborn Children in Their Wills: A Teachable Lesson
February
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan is Set Up to Fail
How to Choose a Trustee
Name a Guardian for Your Child
Caution: Creditors Now Have Easy Access to Inherited IRAs
Big Bang Theory Star’s “Ironclad” Prenup Challenged: How Does Yours Compare?
Will Your Family Be Able to Find Your Original Last Will?
Ways to Avoid Court Proceedings
Are Handwritten Intentions Enforceable? Princess Diana Thought So…
An Estate Planning Checklist to Facilitate Wealth Transfer
Aging.gov: A New Resource for Older Americans and Their Families
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation
10 Types of Trusts: A Quick Look
5 Tragic Mistakes People Make When Leaving Assets to Their Pets
5 Things Every New Mother Needs to Know About Wills
New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes What This Means for You and Your Family
5 Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now
5 Mistakes Made by Successor Trustees (and How to Prevent Them)
5 Good Reasons to Decant a Trust
3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Fees
3 Tips for Overwhelmed Executors
3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs
3 Reasons You Want to Avoid Probate
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment
Will Your Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate? It Depends.
Why Your Estate Planning Project Must Morph into a Process
Estate Planning Tips for Commitment Without Marraige
3 Celebrity Probate Disasters and Tragic Lessons
3 Examples of When an Irrevocable Trust Can – and Should – Be Modified
January
2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
2013
2012


Nennig Law Offices, LLC assists clients in Madison, WI and throughout Southern Wisconsin including Verona, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains,Sauk City, Belleville, Waunakee, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Black Earth, DeForest,Monona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cambridge, Deerfield and Fitchburg.



© 2021 Nennig Law Offices, LLC
6418 Normandy Ln, Ste 225, Madison, WI 53719
| Phone: 608-661-4333

Estate Planning | Asset Protection | Business Succession Planning | Special Needs Planning | Planning for Children | Advanced Estate Planning | Probate & Estate Administration | Estate Planning for High Net Worth Individuals | Estate Planning with Wills | Trusts & Estate Planning | Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families | Estate Tax Planning | Estate Litigation | Guardianships | Pet Trusts | COVD-19 | Who We Are | Becoming A Client

Attorney Website Design By
Zola Creative