Our lawyers provide a wide range of estate planning services designed to achieve the personal, economic and tax-planning objectives of our clients. We often work closely with clients’ other advisors, including accountants, investment advisors and life insurance professionals.
Our basic estate planning services include preparing wills, revocable living trusts, marital property agreements (for married clients), durable powers of attorney for financial matters, and advance medical directives (powers of attorney for health care and living wills). We also provide advice regarding the designation of beneficiaries for assets that pass by beneficiary designation and coordinate asset ownership and titling to achieve an integrated plan.
Additional estate planning services may include utilization of devices and techniques to reduce the payment of income, gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Such devices and techniques may include irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), transactions with grantor trusts, family limited partnerships or family limited liability companies (FLPs or FLLCs) and long-term generation-skipping trusts. We also provide counsel on charitable planning and in regard to business succession planning for owners of closely held businesses.
Estate and Trust Administration
Our attorneys and paralegals have extensive experience in the representation of fiduciaries of trusts and estates (i.e., trustees and personal representatives). Our services include preparing and filing all types of estate administration documents, including inventories, accountings, receipts, releases, and the like. We assist fiduciaries in preparing and filing federal and state estate tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns. We also assist fiduciaries with preparation of estate and trust accountings and the negotiation and drafting of nonjudicial settlement agreements. Our objective is to assist our clients in carrying out their fiduciary responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner.
We also represent guardians and conservators in the process of being appointed and in carrying out their unique fiduciary responsibilities.
Business Succession Planning
Owners of closely held businesses have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to planning. We view our role as working with the business owner’s team of advisors to facilitate appropriate legal structures to achieve long-term planning objectives. This may include putting in place agreements to facilitate the orderly transition of equity interests and control either during lifetime or upon the death of the owner. Depending on the structure of the business enterprise, tools to accomplish the client’s objectives may include stock restriction agreements, buy-sell agreements, operating agreements, voting trust agreements, or various techniques designed to transfer business interests in a tax-efficient manner.
Planning a client’s estate involves creating a legacy. Sometimes this includes not only gifts to family, but also a legacy for the community. We counsel clients on charitable giving alternatives, including tax and non-tax considerations, to achieve the clients’ objectives. There is a multitude of planning strategies and techniques that can be employed in connection with lifetime gifts or gifts taking effect at death. These includes outright gifts to private or public charitable organizations, the establishment of private foundations or donor-advised funds and the use of charitable remainder trusts and/or charitable lead trusts, to name just a few.
Representing Beneficiaries and Fiduciaries in Disputes
Sometimes beneficiaries need assistance in understanding and protecting their interests in trusts or estates, just as fiduciaries (personal representatives, trustees, guardians, financial agents, etc.) need guidance in carrying out their responsibilities. We have assisted both beneficiaries and fiduciaries in various contexts, sometimes involving litigation, and sometimes involving negotiated resolutions.
Members of the Trusts & Estates Team work in collaboration with members of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group
as part of our Trust, Estate & Fiduciary Litigation Team
Some examples of the kinds of matters we have assisted clients with are:
- Defense of individual and corporate fiduciaries with regard to breach of fiduciary duty claims
- Representation of clients in actions contesting or defending fiduciary accountings
- Representation of beneficiaries in will, trust or beneficiary designation contests, or disputes involving lifetime transfers of property
- Representation of beneficiaries or fiduciaries in will or trust construction or reformation proceedings
- Prosecution of claims for tortious interference with inheritance rights
- Representation of clients in disputes involving marital property rights
- Resolution of disputes involving the identification and valuation of trust or estate assets and the recovery of assets
- Presentation of claims on behalf of creditors of an estate and presentation of objections to creditor claims
- Resolution of disputes with the Internal Revenue Service and state tax authorities with respect to estate, gift, generation-skipping transfer, and income tax liabilities, among other tax issues