Estate planning is a fundamental means of ensuring that one's family is financially and legally protected, and that assets will be distributed according to one's wishes. Our Wealth Transfer & Succession Planning attorneys work with clients to identify and use appropriate planning tools and legal strategies, including:
Advance planning can eliminate many of the delays and expenses associated with settling an estate. We help clients identify assets, beneficiaries and potential debt and tax obligations, and then propose the appropriate type of will to ensure that their wishes are honored. In the process, we assist clients in choosing personal representatives, trustees, fiduciaries and guardians for minor dependents.
Trusts are an important tool in helping clients achieve their financial objectives before and after death. The appropriate use of trusts can enable clients to reduce the value of their estates, protect their beneficiaries, minimize estate taxes and avoid probate. Trusts can also help individuals plan for incapacity and hold assets for the benefit of minors or others. We have experience in a broad range of trusts, including revocable living trusts, gift trusts, charitable remainder and charitable lead trusts, education trusts, multi-generational trusts, residence trusts and life insurance trusts.
Transfer Tax Planning
We regularly work with clients to minimize income, gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes through a range of tax-planning strategies, including charitable deductions, education savings, non-taxable and taxable gifts, exemptions, and appropriate structuring of estates. Tax laws are constantly changing; in order to help clients take advantage of new opportunities, we identify and analyze such changes and help clients modify existing plans to obtain favorable tax benefits.
Charitable Gift Planning
Charitable gifts provide much-needed financial support to charitable organizations and offer income, estate and gift-tax savings to clients. However, the tax treatment of charitable gifts is quite complex and ever-changing, and the tax consequences of these gifts can differ before and after death. We help clients to determine appropriate gifting strategies, including the use of outright lifetime gifts, testamentary bequests, charitable trusts, private foundations, donor-advised funds, charitable gift annuities and pooled-income funds.
Philanthropy and Private Foundations
For many families and private clients, charitable, civic and social causes are best supported through the support or creation of private foundations. We assist clients in all aspects of creating and maintaining foundations, helping them identify priorities and develop strategies based upon their unique philanthropic vision and mission. We help establish the roles and responsibilities of trustees, family members, staff and donors, and help our clients structure relationships with recipient agencies and individuals, and collaborate with other foundations, organizations and nonprofits.
Life Insurance Planning
Regardless of one's salary or portfolio size, appropriate life insurance can help assure financial support for one's family and offer the liquidity necessary to pay estate taxes or other expenses at death. This is particularly true for owners of small businesses who wish to keep the business in the family. We also work with clients to minimize potential estate tax liabilities associated with the ownership of life insurance, through the use of gifts, trusts and other tax-saving techniques.
Asset Protection Planning
We work with clients to develop specific, practical strategies to protect their assets while helping ensure that these assets are put to use in a manner consistent with our clients' financial goals. Through in-depth analyses of personal and financial assets, we review a range of possible scenarios, create strategies to address potential opportunities and threats, develop tactical action plans and work with clients to implement these items. Recognizing that financial goals and circumstances are dynamic, we conduct periodic reviews of the client's situation, identify new challenges, and develop updated plans to meet these changing requirements.
Estate planning is not limited to what may occur after one's death. A well thought-out plan for short and long-term personal care and financial management for oneself and one's dependents, in the event of disability, can go a great distance in ensuring peace of mind. This is also true for parents of disabled children who may outlive their parents. At Much Shelist, we work with our clients to determine the effective management of assets and the documentation of health care wishes. We help clients create and fund trusts, designate guardians for minor dependents and disabled adults, and establish powers of attorney for both property and health care, as well as advance health care directives and living wills.
Retirement Planning and Beneficiary Designations
As individual responsibility for retirement assets continues to grow, the accumulation of wealth in these plans often creates new and significant challenges. On the opportunity side of the ledger, retirement accounts also can help business owners and employees obtain significant tax deductions by setting aside pre-tax income. We work with clients in all areas of retirement planning, from determining beneficiaries to advising them on distribution options and their corresponding tax ramifications. We routinely analyze the broad range of personal, legal and financial factors that can play a role in our clients' decisions, such as minimizing estate taxes and obtaining creditor protection.
Premarital, Postmarital and Domestic Partnership Agreements
As families have become more diverse, so have the complexities surrounding their financial relationships. Whether a couple is planning to marry, or is married, divorced, widowed or living together in a committed relationship, the effective, planned management of their financial and other assets can help eliminate uncertainties. We work with individuals and couples to develop and implement premarital agreements and other contracts that help them preserve and protect assets at every stage of a relationship and in every legal classification of that relationship.