The Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) §318 contains corporate stock attribution rules between an estate and its beneficiaries. In order to apply these rules correctly, one must understand how §318 defines “beneficiary” for the purposes of upstream and downstream estate attribution rules. This articles will introduce the readers to this §318 estate beneficiary definition.
§318 Estate Beneficiary Definition: General Rule
Treas. Regs. §1.318-3(a) defines “beneficiary” for the purposes of §318 attribution rules (on a separate note, pursuant to Rev. Rul. 71-353, the attribution rules for the personal holding company provisions, collapsible corporation provisions (now repealed), and affiliated group provisions also use this definition of a beneficiary).
Treas. Regs. §1.318-3(a) states that “the term beneficiary includes any person entitled to receive property of a decedent pursuant to a will or pursuant to laws of descent and distribution.” Hence, in order to be considered a beneficiary under §318 , a person must have a direct present interest in the property of the estate or in income generated by that property.
Moreover, a person entitled to property not subject to administration by the executor is not a beneficiary for purposes of the §318 estate attribution rules unless the property is subject to the executor’s claim for a share of the federal estate tax.
§318 Estate Beneficiary Definition: Certain Specific Cases
This definition of beneficiary produces interesting results in some specific cases which are actually quite common.
Let’s first see the result of the application of the §318 estate beneficiary definition to life estates. A person with a life estate in estate property is a beneficiary. On the other hand, if a person owns only a remainder interest (i.e. an interest that vests only after the death of the life tenant), then he is not a beneficiary.
A beneficiary of life insurance proceeds is not considered a beneficiary for the §318 estate attribution rule purposes. This is because this is not a property subject to administration by the executor.
Similarly, an executor or administrator is usually not a beneficiary simply by virtue of occupying either of these positions. The main exception to this rule is a situation where an executor or administrator is otherwise considered a beneficiary.
Finally, a residuary testamentary trust presents a very interesting and complex issue. Under Rev. Rul. 67-24, it may be treated as a beneficiary of an estate before the residue of the estate is actually transferred to it. Moreover, it appears that such a trust (in that case, it was an unfunded testamentary trust) needs to worry about the §318(a)(3)(B) trust attribution rules.
§318 Estate Beneficiary Definition: Cessation of Beneficiary Status
It is important to note that §318 estate attribution rules cease to operate with respect to a person who stops being a beneficiary. See Tres. Reg. §1.318-3(a). There is an exception to this rule though: pursuant to Rev. Rul. 60-18, a residuary legatee does not stop being a beneficiary until the estate is closed. “Residual legatee” is a person named in a will to receive any residue left in an estate after the bequests of specific items are made.
When does a person stop being a beneficiary for the purposes of §318? Treas. Reg. Reg. §1.318-3(a) sets forth the following criteria that must be met for a person to no longer be considered a beneficiary: (a) the person has received all property to which he is entitled; (b) ”when he no longer has a claim against the estate arising out of having been a beneficiary”; and (c) “when there is only a remote possibility that it will be necessary for the estate to seek the return of property or to seek payment from him by contribution or otherwise to satisfy claims against the estate or expenses of administration”.
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