We assist clients in developing plans for the disposition of their estates after death and for the perpetuation of family businesses. This involves the laws of wills, trusts, probate, property, marriage and state and federal taxation. We prepare documents that preserve as much flexibility as possible and provide opportunity for later tax planning by use of such devices as QTIP elections and disclaimers of interests in property. In addition to wills and revocable living trusts, we prepare documents such as irrevocable life insurance trusts, personal residence trusts, and charitable remainder trusts to carry out lifetime estate planning objectives. Optimal tax planning may also involve the rearrangement of ownership of property within a family unit, by gift or otherwise.
International Estate Planning and Estate Administration
We assist individuals and families with all aspects of international and cross-border estate planning such as U.S. estate, gift and income taxation of non-resident aliens; taxation matters associated with permanent and temporary foreign residency; unique community property and asset protection issues that arise when foreign persons or foreign assets are involved. Our lawyers have experience representing clients who are U.S. citizens as well as foreign clients with U.S. business interests and or personal assets in the U.S. We assist these clients with handling estate planning matters in connection with several foreign countries, including preparing qualified domestic trusts (QDOTs) and assisting U.S. citizens in the expatriation process. In our U.S.-Canada cross-border practice our attorneys prepare Canadian immigration trusts. Our attorneys have experience with foreign asset reporting including the Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR or TD F 90-22.1), the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and reporting obligations related to foreign trusts.
We assist clients in developing individual financial plans for the management and use of assets during the individual's lifetime. This includes advice regarding legal and tax aspects of joint ownership of property, formation of family limited partnerships and limited liability companies for the management of property and for lifetime transfers to family members; planning for the contingency of disability through "living wills" and advance directives for health care, use of durable powers of attorney and revocable living trusts; and advice regarding various types of investments, the desirability of making gifts and the general effect of income tax laws.
Post-Mortem Tax Planning
An important part of our practice involves assisting clients in making various elections for tax purposes after a death has occurred. This includes decisions on whether to claim available deductions on estate or income tax returns, whether to use date-of-death values or alternate valuation date values for estate tax purposes, whether to file joint income tax returns with a surviving spouse or to consent for gift tax purposes to treat gifts as if made equally by a decedent and spouse. Other planning decisions involve income tax planning, selection of fiscal years for income tax purposes, timing of distributions, making qualified terminable interest property elections, the appropriate use of disclaimers, funding of trusts with selected assets, the allocation and use of generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions and many other tax planning elections.
Settlement of Estates
We represent personal representatives in settling estates, including the preparation and filing of pleadings and other documents in the appropriate probate court, marshaling estate assets, preparation of an inventory of estate assets, settlement of claims, preparation of decedents' final income tax returns, preparation of fiduciary income tax returns, preparation of estate and inheritance tax returns, participation in any audit of such returns, preparation and review of accountings, interpretation of wills (including allocation of assets to marital dispositions) and distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
Administration of Trusts
We provide advice to trustees with regard to the performance of their duties as trustees and their investment, tax, and accounting responsibilities. We assist with the preparation of fiduciary income tax returns and, in the case of revocable living trusts, the preparation of estate and inheritance tax returns upon the death of the trustor. As with estates, we participate in any audit of such returns. We represent trustees with respect to the interpretation of trust provisions and, upon termination of the trust, the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.