Recent changes in the income tax laws have substantially increased the income tax burden of many of our clients, through direct increase in the applicable tax rates, reduction in allowable tax deductions, and imposition of new taxes on investment income. We are often able to design and create certain trusts and intra-family transactions which shift family income to family members with a lower tax cost, and to structure a client's regular charitable giving to favorably impact their current tax liability.
Our estate planning skills include the design and preparation of Wills, trusts, and other documents to accomplish the client's goals, and the creation of family partnerships, limited liability companies, and other entities to hold and manage property. The estate planning process, however, is absolutely dedicated to our fully understanding the client’s wishes and priorities, and then being focused on accomplishing those goals. While tax savings may be an objective with a high priority, and is one in which we maintain the highest level of technical expertise, it must be addressed within the scope of the client’s overall goals. It is essential that the applicable documents to be prepared maintain the client’s priorities for the distribution of the estate, the ultimate control of estate assets, the benefits to be created for family members, and the protection of the assets for financial security.
Our clients and their business entities often hold significant real estate assets and are regularly engaged in various real estate transactions, either through the conduct of their business or the management of their wealth. Many of the estates and trusts which we represent include substantial and diverse real estate holdings. We analyze a client’s needs and objectives in such transactions, so that the client fully understands his or her alternatives, along with the tax impact, costs and benefits associated with them. We are frequently asked to negotiate on behalf of our clients, and to prepare contracts, leases, joint venture or partnership agreements, and other documentation involved in such matters, and conduct closings. When our client is a lender in real estate transactions, we regularly handle the perfection of security interests and the enforcement of debt collection, including foreclosure, eviction and bankruptcy cases.
We assist the fiduciary and the family in understanding and organizing the legal and practical requirements of estate and trust administration, and in delegating the numerous tasks to minimize costs. In many cases, we are able to identify postmortem tax planning opportunities which might be missed by those less experienced in the process. Our skills in creatively managing the tax planning issues and the questions which arise in estate tax audits frequently produce savings which far exceed the costs of administering the estate. We also help coordinate the efforts of the family’s accountant, investment advisor insurance counselor, and other professionals to realize the best possible result.
In some cases, things go wrong. Our lawyers have many years of experience in assisting families with the resolution of their disputes, whether they stem from an ambiguous Will, a disappointed heir, a misdeed by a fiduciary, controversy over property rights, or tax disputes. When necessary; we offer our unique experience in assisting our clients with litigation involving fiduciary issues, and we are not restrained from handling unusual or difficult cases.
Owners of closely held businesses have unique estate planning needs which require special attention and expertise. The business entity is frequently the primary source of the family’s wealth, and it can also be the vehicle for preserving that wealth for future generations. Formulating the management succession plan, providing for a continued stream of income for a retired owner and a surviving spouse, treating children equitably in the process, and planning for liquidity needs are challenges which we tackle daily. In this multi-faceted area, our ability to unify the areas of business law, compensation planning, tax law, and estate planning is especially effective. We frequently are called on to devise plans for passing the business to a younger generation while minimizing gift and estate taxes and preserving an income stream for the older generation.
The law has progressively restricted the ability of the business owner to utilize tax qualified plans for the benefit of business owners and executives. At the same time, recent changes in the tax law have enhanced the value of income tax deferral. We maintain a high level of expertise in designing flexible benefit plans which maybe utilized for the exclusive benefit of the business owner and management employees, while still offering extremely attractive tax benefits. Within this field, the firm has also developed particular expertise in designing such plans for senior management executives of non-profit tax exempt employers.
When our clients are ready to begin shifting family wealth to younger generations, it is vital that we determine whether they are prepared to shift control of the assets along with the economic benefits. We frequently design and implement specialized transfer vehicles such as family partnerships and limited liability companies, as well as special trusts which permit the client to retain certain income and control rights. Additionally our lawyers maintain a high level of proficiency in identifying and planning for long-term challenges presented by the onerous generation-skipping transfer tax.
In an increasingly litigious society, our clients are more and more concerned about protecting their assets from threats outside the control of their family. They are frequently concerned about passing the family wealth to children and grandchildren in a manner which protects it from the effects of failed marriages and business reversals. We are equipped to advise clients regarding legal and appropriate ways to structure their affairs to minimize these risks. Where appropriate, we have access to international entities and other sophisticated devices.
The creative use of life insurance products sometimes offers unparalleled opportunities for creating tax free estate liquidity. It may provide the least costly method of paying estate taxes which cannot otherwise be avoided, and solving numerous other problems. The effective selection of insurance products is often confusing, and the law governing the taxation of these transactions is frequently dependent on obscure technicalities. We are uniquely equipped to assist clients with these opportunities and issues. We do not sell insurance products, but we maintain a high level of expertise in the creative uses of those instruments. With that expertise, we are especially well qualified to design and implement plans involving the use of insurance and to assist the client in negotiating the selection of the products.
The creative use of charitable trusts sometimes offers extraordinary financial and tax benefits in exchange for the support of charitable endeavors. For larger charitable commitments, the design and creation of a tax-exempt charitable entity for the family can provide greater control, and family involvement across multiple generations, in accomplishing the family's goals. We are experienced in helping clients explore these opportunities and understand the complex alternatives available. Through the use of proprietary computer software which we have developed for this purpose, we can provide detailed analysis of the effect of charitable transactions on the family’s income stream and estate planning objectives.
When necessary we represent clients in the legal proceedings for establishing and maintaining a legal guardianship for minor children or incapacitated adults. We also provide advice concerning alternatives to such proceedings, such as living trusts, minor’s trusts, powers of attorney, standby trusts, and advance directives for healthcare. In addition, we offer expertise in consulting with the family regarding qualification for Medicaid or other public assistance benefits and the financing of long-term care requirements.
As advisors to business owners, we are regularly engaged in the formation and operation of partnerships, joint ventures, corporations and limited liability companies. With our personal understanding of the owner’s individual objectives and priorities, we can advise on the alternatives available for continuity of ownership, and effectively design and prepare buy-sell agreements, voting agreements, employment contracts, and deferred compensation plans. We are also well equipped to advise clients on the tax implications of choosing the correct entity for the operation of the business and coordinating those issues with the client’s personal estate planning desires. For more information, please contact us to talk about your needs, plans and priorities without any charge or obligation.