Practice Areas & Industries: Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP


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Practice/Industry Group Overview

Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP's Trusts, Tax & Probate group provides both basic and more sophisticated estate planning services for our clients.  We work with our clients to cover their basic estate planning needs such as wills, revocable trusts, powers of attorney, advance health care directives, title transfers, vesting decisions and nonprobate transfers.  But many of our clients, especially closely-held business owners, need more than just basic planning.  For those who need it, we assist with business succession planning, buy-sell agreements, disability planning, life insurance planning, irrevocable trusts, charitable giving, sophisticated estate tax planning, gifting and related techniques, as well as gift tax return preparation.

We work with trustees, executors and heirs on both probate and trust administration matters after there’s been a death.  This includes, among other things, handling probate cases, advising trustees on post-death trust administration issues, preparing and filing estate tax returns, probate and trust litigation, including will and trust contests and accountings.  When court proceedings are needed because a person is incapacitated, we represent guardians and conservators in those proceedings.

Hill Farrer’s estate and tax group provides a full range of tax services for our clients, including consultation and documentation for real estate transactions, condemnations and exchanges, partnerships, limited liability companies, incorporations, mergers, acquisitions, S corporations, corporate tax issues, professional corporations, nonprofit organizations, premarital agreements, state and local tax matters, property taxes, sales and use taxes, loan structuring, business workouts, litigation support, tax collection matters, and tax litigation matters.

We represent nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, including drafting organizational documents such as Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Trust Agreements, securing federal and California tax-exempt status, assisting and advising on public benefit vs. private foundation issues, registering with the California Registry of Charitable Trusts, assisting with local registration to solicit charitable donations, representing nonprofits against the California Attorney General’s office when issues arise, advising on corporate and trust governance issues, advising on disputes particular to nonprofits, including disputes among members and directors, handling or overseeing IRS audits of nonprofits, and assisting on IRS "intermediate sanction" issues.

Employee Benefit Plan Advice & Litigation

Hill Farrer’s employee benefits attorneys have broad experience in all areas of employee benefits practice, including pension, profit sharing, 401(k), 403(b), collectively bargained, multi-employer, executive compensation, apprenticeship and health and welfare plans; plan drafting, qualification, administration, merger, claims adjudication, litigation, audit and termination; handling of plans in business mergers and acquisitions; advising fiduciaries on all aspects of their ERISA and plan duties; advising employers on multiemployer plan withdrawal liability; drafting and negotiating employment contracts; preparing severance agreements and releases; advising employers and trustees on their duties under Health Care Reform; preparing qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs); taxation of distributions; and voluntary compliance submissions to both the IRS and the DOL.

Representative Matters

  • Have assisted numerous individuals and families in creating estate plans to meet their specific needs in an economic and efficient matter.
  • Successfully represented numerous individual and institutional trustees and personal representatives in the administration of trust and probate estates.
  • Successfully protected the interests of numerous individual and charitable beneficiaries in the administration of trust and probate estates.
  • Successfully represented Trustees in contesting bequests to caregivers procured through undue influence and fraud.
  • Successfully obtained favorable settlement on behalf of the trustee of a $10 million plus trust estate in recovering property of the decedent wrongfully taken.
  • Successfully obtained probate court approval of trust accountings covering a 12 year period and successfully defended Trustee against breach of fiduciary duty allegations made by remainder beneficiaries.
  • Obtained favorable monetary settlement on behalf of a beneficiary of an estate in a will contest matter.
  • Upon the death of Client’s mother, engaged to provide advice regarding the post-mortem trust administration of parents living trust and minimization of federal estate tax liability in excess of $2,000,000 anticipated to be incurred upon death of father.  Result:  Federal estate taxes paid upon father’s death the following year:  $59,431.
  • Estate of Bowles v. Cavalli 169 Cal.App.4th 684 (2008):  Represented the former trustee of a trust in a case involving the standing of a beneficiary to bring suit on behalf of the trust against the former trustee.
  • Obtained favorable settlement on behalf of family members in litigation against beneficiaries of a decedent's trust to modify the frust to include family members unintentionally omitted.
  • After auditing client’s income tax return filed for 2005, Franchise Tax Board assessed an “accuracy related penalty” and interest in excess of $40,000.  Represented Client in protest of imposition of this penalty.  Result:  Penalty fully abated.
  • Represented purchaser of the stock of a corporation that operates a foreign-language school.
  • Negotiated on behalf of the purchaser a stock purchase agreement for the purchase of a foreign language academy.
  • City of Los Angeles v. Venice Peninsula Properties 31 Cal.3d 288 (1982):  Represented owner of real property in defense of claims by the City of Los Angeles and the State of California to the effect that the property was subject to a public trust easement for navigation, commerce and fisheries.
  • Negotiated and documented the sale of all of the stock in a waterworks company to employees of the company.
  • Engaged to provide advice regarding transfer of majority interest in closely held business to children of founder.  Net value of client’s estate in excess of $15,000,000.  Owners of business include Client, client’s first wife, client’s second (current) wife, four adult children, two of whom are actively involved in the conduct of the business, and a number of unrelated (non-family) owners.  Result:  Implementation of combination of estate tax planning strategies anticipated to result in:  (a) stream of income to Client for life, (b) reduction of estate taxes payable upon Client’s death from in excess of $5,675,000 to under $350,000 if death occurs prior to July 2, 2013 or under $42,500 if death occurs after July 1, 2013, (c) deferral of up to $2,260,000 in estate taxes until death of current spouse which children will be able to pay with proceeds of life insurance on her death and (d) assurance that Client’s interests in business will pass to four children upon his death and the death of his current wife.
  • Represented Executor of Estate in successful trial in which she recovered real property and monetary damages for the Estate, which had been taken from the Decedent through the use of undue influence
  • Have represented, assisted and advised individuals, institutional fiduciaries, and private professional fiduciaries in conservatorship proceedings.
  • Successfully represented family members in conservatorship proceedings and successfully recovering property wrongfully taken from conservatee.
  • Obtained favorable settlement in conservatorship dispute among family members.
  • Have made numerous submissions to the IRS under the "Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System"


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