Estate Asset Preservation & Taxation
Estates, Trusts and Family Wealth Planning
The firm provides sophisticated and customized advice to individuals and families in devising plans for achieving their personal and financial goals relative to preserving and transmitting wealth, minimizing transfer taxes and maintaining the viability of a closely held business. We counsel executors, trustees and beneficiaries in the administration of estates and trusts, and when appropriate, our attorneys litigate will contests and other probate and trust disputes. Our practice members also advise clients concerning elder care issues, providing for special needs beneficiaries and addressing matters of particular significance to clients with international backgrounds or family relations.
In the area of estate planning, we advise clients in implementing intergenerational transfers of property while optimizing the use of available exemptions and exclusions under the estate, gift and generation skipping transfer tax laws. Our services include asset protection strategies designed to shield personal wealth and property intended for natural heirs and other beneficiaries from creditors, divorcing spouses and a beneficiary’s own improvidence. We counsel business owners with succession planning, including advice in circumstances involving family members with diverse abilities and levels of involvement in the enterprise. Our attorneys advise clients relative to the most tax-efficient withdrawal and disposition of retirement assets, and on charitable giving. Practice group members also address long-term care planning and wealth preservation techniques to avoid the depletion of a client’s assets due to infirmity.
Planning documents often adopted by clients may include a will; revocable trust; irrevocable life insurance trust; general power of attorney; durable health care power of attorney; and a “living will.” In many circumstances, additional and more complex arrangements are called for, including such wealth transfer devices as generation skipping trusts; special needs trusts for disabled beneficiaries; qualified personal residence trusts; charitable trusts; grantor retained annuity trusts; private foundations; and family limited partnerships. Business succession planning may involve transfers of business interests in trust for family members or a sale of closely held corporation stock to an employee stock ownership plan (“ESOP”) on a tax-deferred basis. Where a non-U.S. citizen spouse is concerned, an otherwise taxable transfer of property for the spouse’s benefit can avoid taxation by adoption of a qualified domestic trust (“QDOT”).
Estate and Trust Administration
We advise personal representatives and trustees in carrying out their administrative duties in decedent’s estates and under long-term trust arrangements. Our practitioners counsel the fiduciaries relative to making post-mortem tax elections and disclaimers; filing appropriate estate, gift, state inheritance and fiduciary income tax returns; and ensuring that receipts and disbursements are appropriately accounted for, necessary appraisals obtained, required disclosures to beneficiaries communicated and assets appropriately liquidated and distributed in accordance with the governing instruments and applicable law. Where disputes arise, our attorneys will represent the fiduciary, or in some cases a beneficiary or class of beneficiaries, in a will contest or breach of trust litigation.