Innovative, Flexible Legal Counsel in Trusts and Estates
Graubard Miller has expertise in all aspects of trust and estate planning and administration. Our attorneys are adept at handling complex issues related to estate taxation, generation-skipping taxation, fiduciary income tax and post-mortem tax planning. We also assist clients in estate planning matters not related to taxation, such as providing for family members with special needs, assisting clients with their charitable giving programs, and health care matters. We have broad experience in settling complex estates, both by judicial accountings and informal estate settlements agreed to by the parties. Our firm has special expertise in meeting the unique needs of clients with substantial assets and of those facing the challenges of transferring assets from one generation to the next.
Estate planning involves both lifetime and testamentary strategies to carry out an individual’s personal objectives. We advise clients on how to eliminate or minimize gift and estate taxes so as to maximize the amount of property transferred to family and other beneficiaries. At Graubard Miller, our lawyers recognize that personal and financial circumstances vary among clients. Therefore, our goal is to create a tax-sensitive framework to help our clients accomplish their individual objectives, while allowing flexibility to accommodate future circumstances.
Depending upon the personal and financial circumstances and testamentary goals, an estate plan can:
- Minimize estate taxes
- Incorporate generation skipping planning
- Reduce taxes by lifetime giving strategies
- Provide for a surviving spouse or partner and for children
- Facilitate the orderly and tax efficient transfer of a closely-held business
- Preserve family real estate holdings
- Provide for optimal disposition of insurance and retirement benefits
- Maximize the tax advantages of charitable giving
- Address tax planning for non-citizen spouses and employ international tax planning opportunities.
Minimizing Estate Taxes
Although tax considerations alone should not control, the current marginal federal estate tax rate of 35%, as well as state death taxes, where applicable, require transfer tax considerations to play an important part in any plan. Typical vehicles for the reduction of estates taxes include use of the “credit bypass” trust, disclaimers, QTIP forms of marital trust for the surviving spouse and irrevocable life insurance trusts. Strategies may include “leveraged” lifetime gifts of assets, valuation discounts, qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), family limited partnerships, and grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs)
Our firm also acts as counsel to the executor or executors of an estate. In that role, we seek to carry out your estate plan to its fullest extent. In addition to gathering assets, preparing and filing court papers and tax returns, and overseeing the distribution of assets, we will establish strong lines of communication with your family.
Probate Court Proceedings
If probate court proceedings are required, we prepare and file the petition for probate, notify or obtain the assents of interested persons, arrange for the allowance of the will, secure the appointment of the nominated Executor, obtain appraisals of personal and real property, prepare the inventory, marshal all assets, respond to the claims of creditors, and prepare and arrange for the allowance of accounts. Accounting is handled either in-house or in close cooperation with your outside accountant to ensure accurate and efficient preparation of probate accounts and tax returns.
Should proceedings be required to interpret a will or trust, to defend a claim, pursue any action or seek allowance of accounts, we represent the Executor (or Trustee) in connection with such proceedings.
Preparing and filing estate tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns on a timely basis is the cornerstone of effective estate administration. Our practice is based on a thorough knowledge and understanding of the tax laws, rulings and cases, together with extensive experience in the practicalities of dealing with the federal and state tax authorities. We have extensive experience in the valuation of difficult to value assets and securities, and in reporting such assets in a manner designed to produce the most favorable outcome for the client. We also assist the client in creating a plan for the orderly liquidation of assets to meet estate tax obligations.
Business Succession Planning
Many of our clients own family businesses or control large blocks of stock in privately traded companies. We counsel our clients on such issues as retaining the company’s private status, providing continuity of management, transferring stock in the company to younger generations, and maintaining voting control of the company. We may also advise on the effectiveness of gifts to private foundations or public charities in connection with estate planning. We draft shareholders’ agreements defining the obligations among the various owners of the family business and design compensation packages for executives of both privately and publicly traded companies. We also help negotiate complex employment contracts. Graubard Miller also assists clients in preparing privately held companies for sale and in the sale process. These services include structuring the most tax-advantageous method of sale and negotiating the sale documents.