Practice/Industry Group Overview
The firm’s trusts and estates practice offers a full range of wealth transfer services. We advise entrepreneurs, business executives, professionals and other high net worth individuals and their families.
Our lawyers have extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with the estate, gift, generation-skipping transfer and income tax laws impacting wealth transfers, and are able to assist clients in developing sophisticated and creative estate plans for the transfer and preservation of wealth from generation to generation. We utilize the most efficient estate planning techniques, taking into account our client’s needs while minimizing the exposure to transfer tax penalties. We also assist in the orderly transmission of wealth during our clients’ lifetimes and upon death, taking advantage of all strategies available to reduce the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax costs and maximizing the benefits received by the beneficiaries.
We understand that estate planning decisions are very personal, and need to be addressed with extreme care and sensitivity to a client’s particular family situation and business concerns. Our goal is to create an estate plan that makes sense from a tax perspective while taking each family’s dynamics into consideration.
Areas of focus include:
Wills and Trusts
Our lawyers advise in the preparation of wills and revocable and irrevocable trusts for the transmission of property during life and at death, taking advantage of all available exemptions, credits and exclusions to minimize the estate tax costs. We also assist in preparing documents that might be needed in the event of illness or incapacity, such as health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney. In every instance, we take the time to fully explain each document so that clients can feel confident their goals have been met.
Estate Planning Techniques
We assist clients in making estate planning arrangements that are suitable to their needs and stage in life. Beyond the basics of wills and other family documents, we create sophisticated estate plans that facilitate wealth transfers. We are familiar with a diverse set of estate planning tools and techniques and are experienced in the drafting of the documents necessary to implement them, including:
- Grantor retained annuity trusts
- “Crummey” trusts
- Family limited partnerships and limited liability companies
- Dynasty and other generation-skipping trusts
- Qualified personal residence trusts
- Sales to defective grantor trusts
- Intra-family loans
- Charitable lead and remainder trusts
- Private foundations and trusts for retirement plan benefits
- Life insurance, including life insurance trusts (for individual and second to-die policies), life settlements and premium financing.
Estate and Trust Administration
Lawyers in our trusts and estates group regularly advise individual and corporate executors and trustees with respect to their fiduciary obligations and support them in fulfilling such obligations.
Among other services, we prepare and file all documents necessary to probate a will upon death, and assist the fiduciary in the marshalling of assets and retention of any necessary appraisers. As part of our handling of the legal matters involving the estate, we prepare court-required inventories of assets if needed, fiduciary income tax returns, and federal and state estate tax returns. We also represent the fiduciary in audits of those returns by the Internal Revenue Service or state taxing authorities.
In addition, we prepare the estate and trust accountings in-house to facilitate the cost-effective and timely settlement of estates and trusts, and draft the documents needed to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and terminate the estate or trust. When required, we draft and file documents to obtain judicial approval of the account of the executor or trustee.
We also advise the fiduciary on tax elections and discounts, and will suggest the use of disclaimers where appropriate to reduce the estate tax that is payable.
Dispute Resolution and Litigation in Estate and Trust Matters
As part of the estate and trust representation on behalf of our clients, the firm represents fiduciaries and beneficiaries of estates and trusts in will contests, contested accountings and other miscellaneous matters involving trust and estates. When family disputes or spurious claims threaten the inheritance of a client, we take an active role in protecting our client’s rights through negotiation and, court action if need be, working closely with attorneys in the firm’s litigation department.
Ante-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
We have extensive experience in the negotiation and preparation of ante-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. We understand the complex issues that may arise and the strong emotions that may need to be addressed in resolving those issues. When appropriate, we offer alternative approaches to accomplish our clients’ goals.
Special Needs Individuals
We counsel parents of disabled or other special needs individuals, and are familiar with the concerns of families faced with such circumstances. We know that there are unique issues that must be considered in wills and trust documents in order to maximize the quality of care and services that will be available to children and others who face special challenges, including dealing with governmental or other alternative programs. Difficult choices are faced by parents in deciding how to provide for a child with special needs, and our experience helps clients find a satisfactory resolution.