We provide comprehensive estate planning services including legally specifying how one’s affairs will be managed in the event of incapacity, how and to whom assets will be distributed at death, avoiding probate, income tax planning associated with retirement accounts, premarital and post-marital agreements, asset protection, and gift and estate tax planning.
Wills & Trusts
Wills and Trusts enable a person to specify how and to whom his or her assets will pass at death. Trusts also allow assets to be managed and distributed over time to or on behalf of a beneficiary. Our Wills and Trusts are thorough yet comprehensible and address a range of needs, including probate avoidance, tax planning, and providing for minor children, blended families, and special needs beneficiaries. We help clients think through important considerations for choosing Executors, Trustees and Guardians for minor children.
Powers of Attorney and Advance Medical Directives
Through a Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive, a person can name agents to manage his or her financial and medical affairs in the event of incapacity. Our Advance Medical Directives also contain a “Living Will” section, stating a person’s instructions regarding life-sustaining medical treatment in end-of-life situations. We help clients weigh key considerations for appointing appropriate agents in Powers of Attorney and Advance Medical Directives.
Beneficiary Designations and Asset Titling
Some assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, generally pass by beneficiary designation (and not under a Will), and it is important to coordinate these designations so the assets pass in accordance with the overall estate plan. For example, an appropriate beneficiary designation can ensure that life insurance proceeds go into a trust for a child’s continuing benefit rather than being distributed to the child outright upon turning 18.
We also help clients retitle assets to facilitate their estate planning objectives. Transferring assets into a Revocable Living Trust during life allows the assets to pass outside the probate process at death. We prepare deeds to transfer residences and other real estate into Revocable Living Trusts and assist with the communication required to transfer financial accounts into Revocable Living Trusts.
Estate Tax Planning
We provide estate tax planning, reviewing a client’s overall situation and analyzing estate tax planning needs and possible courses of action. We discuss with clients and implement planning techniques to minimize or avoid gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes.
We help spouses minimize estate taxes at the death of the surviving spouse, with trusts or by making a “portability election” in an estate tax return filed within nine months of the death of the first spouse. We can prepare a Qualified Domestic Trust if needed in situations where one spouse is not a U.S. citizen.
We can establish a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for a family and use it as a vehicle for making gifts to younger family members, using a minority interest discount in valuing the gift.
We prepare and, if necessary, administer Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts that own insurance on a client’s life. This keeps the value of the life insurance proceeds from being included in the client’s taxable estate, and provides the estate liquidity for estate taxes and other purposes.
We counsel clients regarding their options for achieving philanthropic objectives with their estate planning. We coordinate a charitable component of a client’s estate plan with the overall plan by helping the client identify assets that are best-suited to be given to a charitable organization consistent with administrative or income tax considerations.
We establish Family Foundations for clients who wish to benefit charitable organizations over an extended time period. For clients whose estates will likely be subject to estate tax and who have charitable and non-charitable estate planning goals, we can structure Trusts to benefit individual beneficiaries, as well as charities, and also qualify for an estate tax charitable deduction.
We prepare premarital agreements in anticipation of marriage and post-marital agreements for married persons. These agreements set forth what rights a surviving spouse may have to a predeceasing spouse’s property and establish property rights in the event of divorce. Premarital and post-marital agreements are often used when one wants to preserve assets for children from a prior relationship, when one wants to protect inherited assets, and in marriages in which there is a wide disparity in the net wealth of the parties. We strive to protect the interests of our client in an agreement that is sensible and fair to both spouses.
If a client is concerned about a beneficiary’s exposure to creditors, we can structure Spendthrift Trusts to hold funds for the beneficiary’s benefit, but also protect the trust assets from the beneficiary’s creditors. We also protect assets through premarital and post-marital agreements, and by forming business entities (such as LLC’s) that limit liability. If a client, such as an elderly parent, is at a high risk of being defrauded or mismanaging his or her assets, we can protect the client’s assets in a Revocable Living Trust that gives day-to-day control to a trusted individual as Trustee or co-Trustee.
Many of our clients have substantial assets in retirement accounts. Clients who leave these accounts in trust for minor children or grandchildren might attain better income tax consequences through a Trust that allows the minimum required distributions to be paid out over a beneficiary’s lifetime, thus deferring the payment of income taxes (for traditional accounts) or extending the time period that assets can appreciate income tax-free (for Roth accounts).
On the other hand, in situations where a client has a large retirement plan account and a taxable estate, we might suggest a client consider converting to a Roth IRA, paying the income tax with non-retirement plan assets and thus reducing the size of the client’s estate and the client’s potential estate tax.