Be prepared to demonstrate that the loan is legitimate, and that repayments are being made regularly. This documentation can also help sort matters out if the lender should die before the full value of the loan has been repaid.
If you are compelled to help out a family member by way of an intra-family loan, make sure you are aware of all the ins and outs before you extend the offer. The benefits of incorporating family loans into your estate plan were pointed out a short time ago in an article titled “Estate planning benefits of intra-family loans” on LifeHealthPro.com.
The benefits of making a loan are not immediately obvious because that means, by definition, the loaned assets are to be returned to the estate of the one granting the loan, plus interest. Yes, if you make a loan to a family member you still have to expect it back and charge interest at the federally mandated interest rate, the Applicable Federal Rate (or AFR) for the relevant time-frame of the loan. Otherwise, it is not a “loan,” but a “gift” and is subject to an entirely different set of rules.
You might think of it instead as a tool for “intra-family liquidity” for family members to help their loved ones rather than be at the mercy of the bank. After all, the object of the loan can be to do anything. Significant loans can allow for a significant investment, the appreciation of which need only be greater than the interest rate, and this appreciation will pass to the loved one who accepted the loan. Likewise, it could go toward a home and even generate a mortgage tax deduction.
The central caveat is, again, that there are some serious differences between a loan and a gift, to include some heady tax ramifications if not done according to Hoyle. A loan that is not a loan is a gift. Failure to treat the loan as such or to charge interest will raise red flags with the IRS.
Likewise, to forgive the debt is to effectively make a gift. This is not to be forgotten or treated lightly, but then it does lend a certain power and flexibility if it is intentionally used to re-characterize a loan as and when appropriate.
For many, this loan idea is at least a novel thought to consider. What could you and your loved ones be working toward together? You might be capable of more than you thought. Remember, it is not a strategy without some complications. However, an intra-family loan may be a powerful way to pursue family goals.