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Supreme Court Rules in Trust Tax Case Following Amicus Brief Filed by The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel


Contact: Pamela Goldsmith

Washington, DC, June 21, 2019: The United States Supreme Court today ruled in a unanimous opinion against North Carolina in a trust tax case.  The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)  filed an influential amicus brief in March,  The North Carolina Department of Revenue v. The Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust.  The Supreme Court decision determined that a trust beneficiary’s residence in a state does not establish a necessary connection for the state to tax the trust.

ACTEC is an organization of 2,500 peer-elected trust and estate lawyers and law professors who are skilled and experienced in the preparation of wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts; probate; trust, guardianship and conservatorship administration; transfer taxation planning and administration; fiduciary income taxation; incapacity planning; elder law; employee benefit planning; donative planning; charitable planning; professional responsibility; advising exempt organizations; probate, trust, and protective proceedings; litigation of probate, trust, tax and other related disputes; and integration of asset protection planning with the aforementioned practice areas.

The case focused on whether a trust can be taxed by a state based on where beneficiaries live. In its opinion, the court ruled that income not yet distributed cannot be taxed when it is unclear whether a beneficiary will receive it. The College took no position in the case but instead, as noted in the brief, was filed to “assist the court in understanding the history and practice of state fiduciary income taxation as applied to accumulated income in nongrantor trusts and the complexities of such statutes in the context of the multi-state contacts common in today’s mobile society.”

Meg Lodise, Chair of the ACTEC Amicus Review Committee said, “The clarity of this rare 9-0 decision is in part due to the tireless efforts of ACTEC Fellows, in writing an amicus brief that kept the arguments simple and focused. As noted in the brief, many Fellows were involved, all of whom are named in the brief’s introduction. We commend their outstanding work.”

The full brief can be read here. The Supreme Court decision is available here.

About the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC):  Established in 1949, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, ACTEC, is a national organization of approximately 2,500 lawyers peer-elected to membership by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence, and experience as a trust and estate counselor. Our members, “Fellows,” are the best and brightest in trust and estate practice, with decades of experience representing and advising families. ACTEC offers technical comments about the law and its effective administration but does not take positions on matters of policy or political objectives.

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