Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)


A grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) is an irrevocable trust into which a grantor makes a one-time transfer of property, and in which the grantor retains the right to receive a fixed amount of principal and interest at least annually for a specified term of years. At the end of the retainedinterest period or upon the death of the grantor, whichever is earlier, the property remaining in the trust passes to the remainder beneficiaries or remains in trust for their benefit.

A transfer of property to an irrevocable trust is a taxable gift. The value of the gift on which gift tax is imposed is generally its fair market value. However, because the grantor retains an interest in a GRAT, the value of the transfer is discounted; gift tax is imposed only on the remainder interest (and any gift tax due may be sheltered by the grantor's $1 million lifetime gift tax exemption).

This taxable value is calculated using an interest rate provided by the IRS (known as the discount rate or Section 7520 rate), which is based on current interest rates and changes monthly. This interest rate assumes the GRAT property will earn a certain rate of return during the annuity period. Any actual return that exceeds the assumed return passes to the remainder beneficiaries gift and estate tax free. Investment performance, therefore, is central to this strategy.

For a GRAT to be successful:

  • The grantor must outlive the term of years
  • The GRAT property must outperform the Section 7520 rate
  • The GRAT document must be properly drafted

Potential tax advantages of a GRAT include:

  • Because of the retained interest, the value of the transfer for federal gift tax purposes may be discounted
  • Principal remaining in the GRAT at the end of the term of years is removed from the grantor's gross estate for federal estate tax purposes
  • Interest (i.e., appreciation and/or earnings) remaining in the GRAT at the end of the term of years passes to the remainder beneficiaries federal gift tax free

Key Tradeoffs

  • If the GRAT property underperforms the Section 7520 rate, no tax savings is achieved (and if the GRAT is depleted, no property is transferred to the remainder beneficiaries)
  • If the GRAT property underperforms the Section 7520 rate, gift taxes paid and/or any applicable exclusion amount used will be wasted (though the amounts would be minimal)
  • If the grantor does not outlive the term of years, any property remaining in the GRAT is includable in the grantor's gross estate for federal estate tax purposes
  • If the GRAT is unsuccessful, any costs incurred to create and maintain the GRAT will be wasted

How Is It Implemented? 

  • Hire an experienced attorney to draft the GRAT document
  • Have property that is transferred to GRAT professionally appraised
  • Transfer property to GRAT (i.e., retitle assets)
  • File gift tax returns

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by,,,,, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at

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