The Strategic Importance of Using a Defined Value Clause in Gifting to an Irrevocable Trust

Estate planning is an intricate process, often involving the strategic use of trusts to protect assets and minimize tax liabilities.

Among the myriad tools at an estate planner's disposal, the Defined Value Clause (DVC) is a pivotal mechanism that can add a layer of certainty when transferring assets into an irrevocable trust. This article elucidates why implementing a Defined Value Clause can be advantageous, particularly in contexts where asset valuations might be scrutinized by tax authorities.

What is a Defined Value Clause?

A Defined Value Clause is a stipulation integrated into the terms of a gift or sale to an irrevocable trust. It sets forth the exact value of assets being transferred, ensuring that the gift does not exceed a predetermined amount, thereby potentially triggering additional gift or estate taxes. Essentially, a DVC safeguards the granter and beneficiaries from unforeseen tax implications by locking in the asset value at the time of transfer.

Why is a Defined Value Clause Crucial?

Mitigating Tax Uncertainties

Valuations of assets, especially those that are not readily marketable, can be subject to dispute by tax authorities. A Defined Value Clause provides a safety net against the uncertainties of fluctuating asset values. By pinning down the asset value, the clause offers some degree of protection against unexpected tax assessments.

Providing a Blueprint for Excess Value

Often, a Defined Value Clause will outline what happens to any asset value exceeding the defined amount. This is commonly directed towards a secondary recipient, like a charitable organization, which adds another layer of planning for the asset distribution while potentially offering tax benefits.

Practical Considerations for Implementing a Defined Value Clause

Legal Precedence

Before utilizing a Defined Value Clause, it is advisable to review legal precedents and IRS regulations. The acceptability and effectiveness of these clauses can vary based on jurisdiction and previous legal decisions. Knowing the landscape can prevent unnecessary legal complications down the road.

Professional Valuation

Accurate asset valuation is pivotal to the effectiveness of a Defined Value Clause. Employing professional valuation services is highly recommended, as this can provide additional substantiation should the valuation be questioned by tax authorities.


The implementation of a Defined Value Clause in the asset transfer to an irrevocable trust is a strategic step in sophisticated estate planning. By offering a cushion against valuation disputes and providing a roadmap for excess asset values, a Defined Value Clause can be an invaluable tool for both grantors and beneficiaries. However, it's crucial to consult professionals in the field of estate planning and valuation to ensure that the clause is both effective and compliant with existing legal frameworks.

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