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The New Shift Away from Estate Tax Driven Planning in Private Client Legal Services

Lewis W. Webb
Kaufman & Canoles A Professional Corporation - Norfolk Office

December 20, 2012

Previously published on December 2012

Currently, the combined estate tax credit sheltered amount for a couple is $10,240,000. While this number is set to reduce as of January 1, 2013, presumably, regardless of how the negotiations on the fiscal cliff turn out, a bill will eventually be enacted into law providing at least $7,000,000 in total estate tax credits per couple (and this may be indexed for inflation thereafter).

As we know, solving the estate tax problems for families whose assets are below the joint credit amount is fairly simple to accomplish. Due to the current and possible future large joint credit amounts, however, these wealthy families make up an interesting, new category where the non-estate tax legal issues may be much more complex than the estate tax issues, and produce new areas of attention for lawyers.

Our Private Client Services Group attorneys have historically focused their continuing legal education and thinking on being able to deliver (and/or be the entry point for the delivery of) the full range of legal services that a family of significant wealth might need. When done correctly, a lawyer with the skill and background to deliver holistic, integrated planning when applied to the specific facts and issues that a particular client may have can produce tailored, cost effective services with significant benefits to the client.

In broad legal categories, these include all of the issues relating to:

  1. family dynamics and family values transmission to next generations (use of wills and trusts),
  2. marital issues (from pre-marital agreements to divorce, from adoption to child custody),
  3. real estate issues, both personal and investment,
  4. other investments, including the income taxation of such,
  5. pension and retirement assets,
  6. insurance of all kinds,
  7. retirement and end of life issues (advance medical directives, nursing care, etc.),
  8. closely held businesses,
  9. charitable giving, and
  10. asset protection for self and family.

Each of these areas can be a full practice area in and of itself. Practically every family in this category of wealth will have issues relating to at least 4, if not all 10, areas, many of which will be interrelated.

Our goal is to develop the trust with a client couple and their professional advisors where we can bring all of our legal knowledge to the table to produce an integrated, tailored, holistic stream of advice over the full lifespan of the clients, and then on to their children and grandchildren.


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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