Wills & Trusts
Many of our attorneys have been helping people plan estates using both will and trust based estate plans. Though we have a bias toward trust-based plans, we make the recommendation that works best for the client. Eight of our attorneys are active or former members of Wealth Counsel, a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to providing the necessary level of estate planning expertise to clients from simple to complicated. We are trained in the full scope of revocable and irrevocable trusts that may fit a particular client’s need. Two of those attorneys are active in tax and litigation practices that support our planing actions when tax or litigation issues arise.
Our experience includes estates that involve only nominal assets to those estates that have tens of million dollars in assets.
When a person dies, it is essential that another person have the power to transfer assets the deceased person owned. If the person owned titled assets as an individual or as a tenant in common, the probate process must be undertaken so that someone else obtains the power to transfer those assets as provided in the deceased’s will. This is usually true even if a spouse survives and all the descendent’s property was community property.
If a person owned titled assets as a joint tenant or as community property with right of survivorship, a death certificate must be recorded to complete the transfer to the surviving joint tenant or spouse.
If the title assets are owned in trust, a successor trustee must administer the assets as provided in the trust.
Our attorneys have considerable experience in helping clients with the after death process, that is identifying and valuing the assets, dealing with creditors, accounting to beneficiaries, filing income and estate tax returns and distributing the assets.
Minimum Distribution Planning
Whether through employer provided qualified retirement plans or through contributions to IRAs, many individuals accumulate significant assets for their retirement years. One of the most significant advantages of accumulating assets in qualified retirement plans or IRAs is the tax-deferred growth that occurs as long as the assets are retained in the account. The minimum distribution rules were established by the IRS to ensure that at some point the tax-deferred growth will stop and individuals will be required to take distributions from their qualified retirement plans and IRAs.
Our estate planning lawyers are experienced in advising clients on how to maximize the tax-deferred growth opportunities presented by assets in qualified retirements plans and IRAs. Because qualified retirements plans and IRAs often compose a significant part of an individual’s estate, our estate planning lawyers assist clients in appropriately designating beneficiaries to ensure that the right people receive the assets and that the tax-deferred growth is maximized.
Guardianships & Conservatorships
Circumstances commonly arise that may require the appointment of a third person to guard over a minor or disabled one (Guardian) or conserve the assets of one who isn’t able to handle their own assets (Conservator). Legal proceedings may be necessary for one to be appointed as a guardian or conservator or, alternatively, trusts and powers of attorney may sometimes act as substitutes for the necessity of legal proceedings.
We have experience in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings. We also have experience in preparing documents to avoid the necessity of such proceedings. We give counsel and advice on powers of attorney and health care documents as well as trusts and when court proceedings are necessary.
Charitable planning is an important issue to consider in developing your estate plan. You may have certain contributions that you would like to make for personal reasons and may also wish to reduce potential taxes on your estate. Properly executed charitable planning can have numerous benefits for you and your family. Some ideas in charitable planning are:
- A charitable remainder trust will give you an immediate income tax deduction, a lifetime stream of income, and a waiver of capital gains taxes owed on contributed property.
- A charitable lead trust creates an income stream to charity for a term of years with the remainder of the trust going to your children without any estate or gift tax consequences.
- A private foundation offers you the complete freedom to control your giving by placing restrictions on how your gifts are used by charities.
We have had significant practical experience in structuring charitable giving in such a way as to perpetuate the client’s goals and objectives. Whether through charitable contributions during life that create income tax savings or charitable bequests at death that create estate tax savings, our estate planning lawyers can assist you in maximizing your overall benefit from charitable giving.
Issues related to aging, Medicare/Medicaid, Long Term Care, Disability, diminished ability, social security, supplemental security income, appointment of guardians and conservators, Living Wills, DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, and organ donation all fall within the general discussion of elder law issues. We live in an aging society and we and all our clients, either directly or indirectly, are facing the issues that elder care/elder law deal with. We assist clients in wading through the quagmire of federal and state regulation and making intelligent decisions relating to issues that relate to aging.
Our attorneys have represented elderly clients in all the elder law issues. We help clients with asset transfers that assist in future qualification for benefits and may shelter assets from possible government attachment in the right circumstances. We routinely handle matters that involve the appointment process for guardians and conservators, but, better yet, we can help our clients identify ways that will avoid the cumbersome court process involved in those appointment proceedings and assist with nearly seamless transitions in the event of disability.
An analysis of one’s overall estate must be conducted to determine appropriateness and costs of long-term care insurance. Our estate planning team has years of experience in this area and in determining qualification for Medicaid help. We counsel on “spend down” activities that are appropriate under the law and prepare “miller trusts” where appropriate.
AttorneysDan C. DümmarJoseph D. FairbankGregory C. CalderE. Scott LeeMichael W. BrownLindsay M. LofgranHarlow J. McNamaraMegan J. HopferKristopher D. MeekJohn G. St. Clair