Estate Planning & Administration
A central concern for our clients is security – security for themselves as they age, security for their family if they were to die, security in the knowledge that they have minimized taxation to the greatest extent possible. We meet these concerns by offering innovative solutions to the personal financial needs of our clients and their families.
We offer customized advice and recommendations to our clients no matter their stage of life or amount of means. Our attorneys are skilled at protecting a client’s assets from whatever issue is the most pressing potential drain on their finances, whether it be estate taxes, young or financially immature beneficiaries, divorce, the cost of long-term care, or the threat of litigation. We recommend strategies using a combination of estate planning, asset transfers, trusts (domestic and foreign), and the creation of limited liability entities to meet a client’s individual needs.
The Importance of Estate Planning
While planning for the unknown can never be an exact science, one of the most important gifts a person can give their loved ones is protection from the unexpected, including death, divorce, lawsuits, and disability. Our estate planning attorneys and staff provide individual planning solutions for estates of all sizes, whether for a young couple with a modest estate and small children, or a retired entrepreneur with successful business enterprises and grandchildren to enjoy.
Simply stated, we draw from our experience in many disciplines to allow our clients to give their assets to whom they want, and how they want, while minimizing the costs of taxes and administration.
Because of our years of practice developing estate plans, we are able to help our clients articulate their desires and concerns, and develop strategies to meet your goals. Through our knowledge, we are able to recommend the most appropriate and cutting-edge techniques to accomplish those goals. With our skills, we are able to create detailed documents that give life to a planning idea. Once a plan has been put into place, our clients are able to rely on methodologies we have developed to be sure that the plan is perpetuated from year to year, and our cutting-edge practice to alert them to how changes in the law might affect their existing plans.
For many of our clients, no matter what size their estate, how their heirs receive assets is just as important, if not more so, then how much they receive. Parents with minor children are concerned that if their children receive money too soon, they will either waste it, be taken advantage of, or use it as an excuse not to reach their full potential. Parents with older children are concerned about the loss of family assets through divorce, taxes, and lawsuits, and want to set aside funds for their grandchildren’s education or create a special fund for a disabled family member. We help our clients address these issues by designing trusts and using family limited liability companies to meet their unique needs.
There are a myriad of estate planning techniques that might meet a client’s situation. Many are designated by their acronyms, GRATs to QTIPs, QPRTs to CRTs. Planning techniques that may have been appropriate in years past may not work as anticipated in the current economy with constantly changing tax laws.
Understand the Need for Estate Administration
Death, foreseeable or not, is always a devastating experience. In the midst of this emotional upheaval, one or more persons will be named as the Executor, Administrator, or Trustee, and on this person the burden will fall of administering the estate.
Simply stated, administering an estate is the process of finding and gathering the assets, paying the debts and taxes, and distributing the assets to the heirs. To the uninitiated, this “simple” process can be filled with the pitfalls of ignored tax elections, overlooked creditors, and missed deadlines that can cost the estate money and lost opportunity. Add to that the personal liability of the executor, or a possible will contest, and estate administration quickly goes from simple to complicated.
We have assisted hundreds of executors in fulfilling their responsibilities to estates. Our staff is experienced in finding all of a decedent’s assets and placing them under the control of the executor by having title changed to the estate. Because of our experience, we are able to efficiently conclude an estate administration by managing the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries so that the responsibilities of the executor quickly come to an end.
Our clients are especially well served by our ability to draw on our other practice areas to assist in an estate administration, whether it be our Real Estate Department to liquidate property, our Collections practice to gather open receivables, or our Litigation Department to reform a document or advocate for our client in a will contest. By relying on our breadth of experience, an executor can be confident that his or her duties to the estate will be satisfied in a comprehensive and efficient manner.
Given our knowledge of all aspects of estate administration, we also counsel beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries of estates who are seeking to enforce their rights, whether it be to accelerate the estate administration process or contest a suspect will. As in our representation of an executor, our clients seeking to enforce their beneficial interests profit from our ability to evaluate their issues both from a probate and litigation viewpoint.
By relying on our breadth of experience, an executor can be confident that his or her duties to the estate will be satisfied in a comprehensive and efficient manner.
Some of Our Practice Areas
Our Estate Planning and Administration Practice also works on the following:
- Asset Protection
- Estate Plans and Updates
- Health Care Directives and Proxies
- Powers of Attorney
- Special Needs Planning and Trusts
- Trusts (General, Insurance Proceeds, and Other Assets)
- Wills and Codicils
If you have any questions or require assistance with any kind of estate planning or administration matter, please contact James E. Shepard, who heads up our estate practice.