As some say it, the way to get the most out of 1031 exchanging is to "swap till you drop."
When investors continue the cycle of swapping real estate indefinitely, they continue to defer the payment of the capital gains taxes indefinitely. The longer investors keep their equity invested in real estate and defer taxes, the greater their opportunities are to increase their wealth at exponentially faster rates.
The deferred taxes would become owed if ever the investor sold the real estate without reinvesting the gains into replacement real estate, BUT if the investor continues to own the exchanged real estate until the time he or she passes away (or drops, as the saying goes), the deferred tax liability is not transferred to the heirs with the real estate.
Step-up in basis for heirs
When the real estate is transferred to the investor’s heirs, the heirs receive a step-up in cost basis equal to the fair market value at the time the investor passed away. The heirs do not inherit any depreciation recapture or capital gains tax liabilities on the real estate.
Often investors add a family member to the title of a property, unknowingly gifting the property to that family member and breaking the chain of events that would give their heirs the step-up in cost basis.
In many cases, holding assets in joint ownership with one’s beneficiaries may be the easiest way to transfer the assets after the primary owner becomes deceased. However, as long as the property has a living owner, be it the original exchanger or a joint owner, that owner is responsible for the tax liability on the property. In order to eliminate the accumulated capital gains taxes owed on real estate that has been acquired through a 1031 exchange, the real estate must pass to the heir after the owner has passed away.
On the date of his death, a father owned a piece of real estate with a fair market value of $500,000. The property was purchased for $200,000. The daughter received the property through the father’s will. Because the daughter received the property with a step-up in cost basis equal to the fair market value, her cost basis is $500,000. If the daughter chose to immediately sell the property for $500,000, she would not have earned any capital gains or incurred any capital gains taxes. If she held the property for some time and later sold the property, she would only recognize gain for the amount greater than her original $500,000.
Therefore, if she sold the property for $600,000, she would owe capital gains taxes on the $100,000 gain. However, the daughter could consider the option to defer the capital gains taxes incurred as a result of this sale and complete a 1031 exchange by replacing the inherited property for like-kind real estate.
The father’s purchase price, date of purchase, and exchange history become irrelevant to taxation of the real estate once it is in the daughter’s possession. *It is worth it to note that the fair market value of the real estate will be included in the father’s estate and may be subject to federal and/or state estate taxes.
Swap ‘till you drop to make the most of leveraging your income through 1031 exchanging. Leave your heirs with assets that offer an opportunity to continue to build wealth and defer tax liabilities.
As a side note…
If you’re worried about managing real estate investments long after retirement or worried your heirs will not be interested in a management-intensive investment? A Delaware Statutory Trust could be an option. DSTs are a 1031 exchange qualified real estate investment without the intensive management responsibilities of traditional real estate ownership.