Our private client lawyers serve the legal and financial interests of individuals and family businesses with substantial wealth. The group also advises major universities, secondary schools, and cultural organizations on their planned-giving programs. Working with individuals and family groups, our lawyers counsel on estate and gift tax planning, family business succession planning, philanthropic planning, and personal financial interest management on a national and international scale.
We serve individual and family group clients on a personal level, while at the same time being able to access all the firm’s services. The bottom line: We collaborate to effectively meet our clients’ sophisticated needs.
In the tax-exempt component of our practice, our lawyers work closely with planned-giving professionals to develop programs, prepare donor trust agreements, and offer advice on planned-giving trends.
A substantial portion of our work with individuals and families focuses on traditional probate work and the administration of trusts and estates. We handle the phases of estate and trust administration using a full staff of accountants and paralegal estate administrators—a staffing model that enables us to provide efficient, cost-effective estate administration services. The accountants in the group also prepare estate and trust tax returns, gift tax returns, and tax returns for private foundations.
We also have experience in the international tax planning arena, advising families entering and leaving the United States on strategies for deploying their assets and planning their estates.
Handling all phases of the estate administration process, we work with families and their advisers during the administration and thereafter, and handle distributions and postmortem tax planning. Our full-time estate administrators and accountants collaborate with our lawyers, and a team is assigned to each estate. This approach allows us to effectively and efficiently handle estates of all sizes and complexities.
Estate and tax planning analysis for individuals is usually divided into three stages.
Stage one is an analysis of a client’s current assets and estate plan. When necessary, we prepare estate planning documents, which may include a will, a revocable trust, asset and healthcare durable powers of attorney, and a life insurance trust. In a durable power of attorney an individual appoints an agent to make asset and healthcare decisions on his or her behalf. The healthcare power of attorney also includes language regarding the continuation or termination of life support and an advance directive. The will and trust agreements typically include a lifetime trust structure for the trust beneficiary, which provides some protection from a beneficiary’s creditors or divorcing spouse.
Stage two addresses a client’s gifting program and evaluates liquidity needs for paying federal estate tax. We advise clients on the annual exclusion for gift tax purposes and making larger lifetime gifts to the next generation.
Stage three focuses on a client’s future wealth and identifies methods to shift appreciation to the next generation. This stage uses sophisticated techniques to control the rate of growth of a client’s wealth, including family limited partnerships, defective grantor trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), and qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs).
Members of the practice regularly advise clients on family business planning matters. This process often involves a team approach that includes a family’s other trusted advisers, such as financial planners and accountants.
One important area is to develop strategies that enable the senior generation to pass a business in a tax-effective manner to the next generation. This can take the form of recapitalizing the business into voting and nonvoting shares, and transferring the nonvoting stock to the next generation. Our employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) lawyers have experience working with families and family advisers throughout the United States, and can create a partial ESOP structure. We help devise strategies on ways to compensate a descendant who doesn’t participate in the family business.
When counseling family groups, we advise successive generations of families using our knowledge of their ancestors’ goals. We often hold family meetings with the next generation to help educate them on the family’s overall wealth and trusts. We can also prepare prenuptial agreements to protect the family’s trusts and family businesses.
We help individuals achieve their charitable planning goals. This includes forming and administering charitable trusts that can operate during the client’s lifetime or be created under a client’s will. We also help families form private foundations.
We handle real estate matters throughout the United States for high-net-worth individuals, estates, and trusts, counseling clients on the acquisition, sale, financing, and development of personal and business properties. Our lawyers regularly advise fiduciaries in these matters.