Wealth & Risk Management Blog

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Planning Concept: Traditional Private Annuity in Trust Variation

Posted by William Byrnes on August 14, 2013


Provides an overview of private annuities in relation to financial planning.  Examines a new concept wealth managers are employing for their clients with regards to private annuities and trusts. 

The traditional private annuity is a transaction used by some wealth managers for clients whose circumstances permit. Generally a private annuity transaction occurs where the grantor transfers assets to a third party who pays the grantor an annuity, usually for the life of the grantor.[1]

When a trust is involved with a traditional private annuity, the common transaction may look like this:  “The owner of highly appreciated commercial real estate transfers the property to an irrevocable trust in exchange for the trust’s promise to pay an annuity for life. The present value of the annuity equals the fair market value (‘FMV‘) of the property. The trust then sells the property to a third party for a sale price equal to its FMV.” [2]  For additional discussion on private annuity contracts see National Underwriter Advanced Markets’ Private Annuity [3]

The idea behind wealth managers suggesting similar transactions “is that the original transferor can spread his large capital gain over life expectancy by using the irrevocable trust as an intermediary rather than selling directly to the third party (who is presumably unwilling to do a private annuity).” [4]

There are considerations wealth managers must take into account when discussing private annuities with their clients. These may include valuation methods, arms-length transaction consideration, and incidents of ownership. For a detailed discussion of the tax implications of private annuities, please see Tax Facts Q 41. How are payments received under a private annuity Taxed? [5]

It is often the case that a trustee, although not necessarily, will use “the sale proceeds to insure its annuity obligation by purchasing a commercial immediate annuity.” [6]

Planning Concept:  Some wealth managers have recently begun to structure private annuities for their clients slightly differently than the traditional method discussed above.  Here the idea is a private annuity contract issued from the trust to the grantor who pays valuable consideration for the annuity which carries with it a condition precedent or “contingency”.  The condition on the annuity could be the death of the grantor’s spouse.  The trustee may “reinsure” the risk with the purchase of life insurance from payment of the annuity in the event the condition takes place.[7]  Similar considerations with regards to private annuities should also be considered with private annuities that carry a condition.

In the event the grantor’s spouse does not die in the near future, the premiums paid for the private annuity could generally be considered income to the trust, which may be owned by a second generation.  If the spouse does die in the near future, payment of the annuity would create general gain taxation with a tax-free redemption up to basis. [8]


[1] Manning on Estate Planning. PLIREF-ESTPLN s 5:9, 5-30.  “§ 5:9 The Private Annuity”.

[2] New York Estate Planning. 33 ESTPLN 13.  “Maximizing The Planning Opportunities Of Private Annuities”. 2006.

[3] AUS Main Libraries, Section 2. The Federal Estate Tax, D—Annuities In The Gross Estate.

[4] Id.

[5] Tax Facts Q 41. How are payments received under a private annuity taxed

[6] Id.

[7] 33 ESTPLN 13

[8] PLIREF-ESTPLN s 5:9, 5-30; 26 U.S.C.A. § 1001.

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