We provide a range of comprehensive legal solutions, including estate planning and administration, later-life or longevity planning, corporate planning for close businesses, succession and asset protection planning, and more. The following case studies are representative of our services.
We help clients tailor plans that best protect and distribute their assets. Because each situation is unique, we work closely with our clients to ensure that all arrangements consider not just the legal realities of their wishes, but their spirit and context as well.
Representative Client Matters: ■ An elderly couple sought to bequeath their modest estate equally to their three children, one of whom was a priest who had taken a vow of poverty. After extensive research and analysis, a unique trust was created to safeguard the son’s inheritance while respecting the formal requirements—and the principle—of the vow he had taken. ■ A client with a large real estate operation wanted to minimize estate tax. A sophisticated plan was coordinated with other advisers and resulted in a number of transactions to gift and sell assets to various irrevocable trusts using defined value mechanisms, note sale transactions, a sale for a private annuity, a tier of GRATs and other techniques.
It can be a challenging task—and an emotional one—to ensure that estates are properly administered, particularly when there is conflict between parties. We work with clients to make sure that estates are administered as they were intended.
Representative Client Matters: ■ During the administration of a large internationally known high-tech firm creative strategies were employed to minimize application of the net investment income tax (NIIT), among other matters. ■ A well-known estate planning boutique was sued for malpractice in administering an estate, and one of the largest law firms in the state issued a scathing opinion letter confirming that malpractice occurred. Careful review of the voluminous case files resulted in the identification of several significant facts that had been overlooked. These were creatively interwoven into an argument that gave the insurance defense counsel a basis to favorably resolve the case.
Wills & Powers of Attorney
Whatever a family’s size or circumstances, preparing a will and arranging for power of attorney are central to providing responsible care. We help our clients to make these critical preparations, protecting their loved ones and their assets while offering valuable peace of mind.
Representative Client Matters: ■ An older individual had no immediate family. Creative applications of traditional estate planning documents, using a corporate trustee (bank) as successor trustee and even as agent under his power of attorney, integrating mandatory care manager evaluations and a CPA in a monitor role, should assure financial and legal security and minimize the risks of elder financial abuse. ■ A young married couple with two children and a modest estate sought a basic will appointing guardianship. They also improved their property and casualty insurance protection, investment planning, life insurance and worked with us to implement general asset protection planning for future estate growth. An emergency child medical form was created to protect their children when they traveled. The pros and cons of 529 college savings plans versus other options were evaluated, and a trust for all their children was ultimately established instead.
We believe that trusts should always take a holistic view of a client’s unique circumstances. We work with our clients to establish trusts tailored to their particular needs and wishes, taking into any account business requirements, family specifics, and relevant risk factors.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A client with a large family manufacturing business structured a comprehensive estate plan that minimized gift and estate taxes and protected his daughter—who was active in the business and the planned successor—from risks associated with divorce. This plan involved the use of trusts tailored to the family’s situation, careful management of the business, and drafting of business documents, all coordinated with a leading matrimonial attorney. ■ A trusteed cross-purchase arrangement was tailored to meet unique needs of a large family import business succession plan.
We help business owners make customized financial arrangements that can minimize their tax load. From tax credits to deductions, informed adjustments have the potential for sizable impact on a business’s finances.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A client faced a substantial state estate tax cost but no federal estate tax and did not wish to undertake expensive planning because of the possibility of moving to a no-estate tax state in the future. A will was created using the traditional bypass trust and QTIP trust plan. The bypass trust assets, funded to the maximum amount that would not create a state or federal estate tax, and the balance to a marital or QTIP trust that qualifies for the estate tax marital deduction. After the husband died, the wife waited sufficient time so that the marital deduction would not be jeopardized. She then disclaimed her income interest in the QTIP trust. This resulted in a deemed gift of the entire value of the marital trust thereby removing it from her estate. Since there was no state gift tax this plan avoided any state estate tax on the husband’s death, and any tax on the gift, and it is excluded from the wife’s estate on her future death. Even though the wife disclaimed the income interest in the trust, she remains a discretionary principal beneficiary and can receive whatever funds she might wish.
Close businesses have a significant impact on the individuals and families that own and oversee them. We work with our clients to be sure that their goals are carefully implemented, even as we work together to address any unusual or complex valuation issues that might arise.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A closely held corporation sought to motivate its key employees. We worked together to create an incentive stock option (ISO) plan and coordinate it with the various classes of stock. We also drafted a comprehensive shareholders’ agreement and implemented a buyout plan to address the death or disability of a shareholder, partially funded by life and disability buyout insurance. When several key business contacts were recruited to invest in the company, a convertible debenture, with put and call rights, was structured.
We help our clients consider, develop, and implement succession plans for their businesses, enabling smooth leadership transitions that involve minimal disruption to the business. Close businesses have both an emotional and a financial impact on the families that own them, and we take pride in working with our clients to creatively balance a wide range of opinions and concerns.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A family that owned a closely held technology business valued at approximately $500 million sought to minimize gift and estate taxes in a creative manner while creating a viable business succession plan that was considerate of a wide range of goals. The planning involved a range of unique and complex valuation issues, and the most challenging and rewarding component of the plan was to successfully mediate and harmonize the concerns and personal feelings of various family members. ■ Many professionals who practice independently neglect succession, disability and death planning. Succession planning for solo-professionals (social workers, attorneys, CPAs) can be achieved with creative application of LLC governing documents and other techniques, special professional practice powers of attorney and provisions in a will (or revocable trust) designating a particular licensed professional to handle appropriate matters.
We help our clients consider the best ways to protect their assets. We know our client partners are busy, and many of them rely on us to interpret the challenges they face and to advise them on a course of action—and to implement and monitor it accordingly.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A married couple, both physicians facing considerable risk, sought to create an estate and asset protection plan. A gift plan and appropriately qualifying trusts were created to transfer the real estate used in the wife’s practice and held in an S corporation. Due to the clients’ unusually challenging timing and work schedules, the comprehensive plan was implemented and administered to a significant extent by our staff. ■ Creative applications of irrevocable trusts (BDITs, SLATs and DAPTs) formed in trust friendly jurisdictions (AK, NV, DE, SD) can be applied with tiers of LLC owning various assets to create a multi-layered plan of protection against malpractice claims and other predators.
No matter how carefully designed, every plan requires skilled implementation and oversight to have an impact. Our work doesn’t end with plan development—we work with our clients to see plans through to implementation. We also monitor them once they’re in place to be sure they’re functioning as they were designed.
Representative Client Matters: ■ A retired widower with approximately $30 million in real estate assets sought a simple estate plan to pass assets to his children. Together, we developed a comprehensive, multi-phase plan: First, we created core estate planning documents on which future planning could be developed. Various real estate holdings were then restructured from general partnership format into LLCs, and governing documentation (shareholder, partnership, and operating agreements) were negotiated and implemented for co-owned properties. A comprehensive estate and gift tax plan was developed, including a gift strategy using grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and other techniques to leverage gifts to the next generation. A combination of outright sales, charitable remainder trusts, and other techniques was used to increase liquidity and diversify the family asset base. Insurance planning and investment planning for the proceeds were all coordinated as well.