We use a variety of trust and estate planning strategies, each customized to our clients' needs. We believe that any good estate plan starts with certain foundational documents: a will, a general power of attorney, and a health care power of attorney.
Most of our estate plans are designed around a revocable living trust for each client. This common form of trust allows more flexibility and control over how one's property is administered during lifetime incapacity than relying on a power of attorney, and a faster and more discreet settlement of one's estate after death than a will-based estate plan. A well-designed revocable living trust can help keep you, your family, and your assets out of the court system and the public eye, and ensure that your children and other heirs receive their inheritances in the most productive and beneficial way for them.
Closely connected to estate planning is asset protection, which uses various forms of ownership of assets to protect them from creditors, spendthrift heirs, and other such situations. Methods of asset protection vary widely from client to client, but may include irrevocable trusts, family limited partnerships and family limited liability companies. Professionals and entrepreneurs in fields where lawsuits are common should give especially careful consideration to asset protection planning.
Certain types of assets, such as closely-held businesses, Subchapter S corporations, real estate, retirement accounts, and assets with a low income tax basis, require special consideration in any estate plan. We can help you make sure that these assets are incorporated into your plan in a way that maximizes their value, minimizes their income tax burden, and passes them on to future generations in the way you desire.
For clients whose estates are potentially subject to transfer taxes, more sophisticated planning techniques are available. In general, estate and gift tax planning involves using trusts, partnerships, or other legal devices to either reduce or freeze a part of the value of a client's assets so that the taxable estate's value will be reduced, triggering a smaller (or nonexistent) estate tax burden. Importantly, the IRS and other governmental authorities permit these methods for a reason: they generally involve some loss of control over an asset, so they should be used with caution. Commonly-used methods of estate and gift tax planning include:
- Regular gifting of cash or discounted family limited partnership or family limited liability company interests to heirs;
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs);
- Qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs);
- Grantor-retained annuity trusts (GRATs); and
- Installment sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs).
For charitably-minded clients, a host of options are available to allow wealth to pass to charity free of both income and transfer taxes. In addition to outright gifts to charity, options include charitable lead trusts and charitable remainder trusts, each of which exist in a number of different types.
We can help you implement any of these estate planning methods.