Estate Planning, Probate, & Administration
Our Trusts and Estates practice is comprised of attorneys with extensive legal knowledge in all facets of estate planning, estate and trust administration, and estate and trust litigation. Many of our attorneys have obtained advanced degrees in taxation and are also members of our Corporate, Business and Tax practice. As a result, we are fully equipped to assist all individuals of varying wealth, including business owners, executives, professionals, retirees, younger individuals just beginning their career, and others in between.
Our trusts and estates attorneys have over a century of experience between them and many began their careers with large law firms. We pride ourselves in providing exceptional trust and estate legal services to our clients at affordable rates. Our trusts and estates lawyers actively practice in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. We also have relationships with attorneys and law firms in other jurisdictions so that our clients’ interests remain well served.
Before diving into a client’s documents, we first step back and listen. As each client’s assets, goals and life circumstances vary, we develop custom plans that meet the needs and wishes for each individual client. A typical estate plan goes far beyond drafting documents to dispose of assets upon death. For example, attention must be given to issues such as blended families, young and disabled beneficiaries, creditor protection and tax exposure, just to name a few.
Our clients are often well-protected by implementation of traditional documents such as Wills, Revocable Trusts, Durable Financial Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives for Health Care (Living Wills and Durable Health Care Powers of Attorney). In our practice, these documents are far from “form” documents, as each is customized to individually address the particular client’s wishes. We find customization to be important, because inclusion of certain powers or clauses, which might be considered “standard” in some documents, may very well lead to unintended (and potentially disastrous) results in the case of the particular client. We also tailor beneficiary designation provisions so that all accounts and policies are in accordance with the client’s planning documents.
Although tax minimization and efficiency is a concern for some of our clients, we first focus on the more important non-tax factors. Our knowledge of relevant federal and state tax laws allows us to offer guidance on structuring a plan to meet the client’s non-tax wishes in a manner that makes sense from a tax stand point. In appropriate situations, we recommend consideration of additional documents and planning to address certain tax and/or non-tax issues impacting our clients.
Some of these planning strategies include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Premarital Agreements
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
- Generation-Skipping Transfer (Dynasty) Trusts
- Irrevocable Defective Grantor Trusts (IDGTs)
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRTs)
- Grantor-Retained Annuity Trusts and Unitrusts (GRATs and GRUTs)
- Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts (SLATs)
- Charitable Trusts
- Private Foundations
- Limited Liability Companies
- Buy-Sell, Deferred Compensation and Stock-Bonus Agreements
Regardless of the planning being considered, we work closely with our client’s other professional advisors such as bankers, investment managers, brokers, accountants, and financial planners, to ensure that the client’s needs are best met.
An important part of our legal services includes representing individual and corporate administrators, executors and trustees in the administration of estates and trusts. We guide fiduciaries from the start to conclusion of the administration, and assist with probate, surety bond issues, statutory notice requirements, marshalling of assets, appraisals and valuation of assets, dealings with creditors, filing of requisite forms, preparation of estate, inheritance and fiduciary income tax returns, choice of fiscal year, timing of distributions, continuity and sale of real estate and business interests, accountings and termination of the estate or trust upon conclusion of the administration.
As we are concerned with the client’s liability while serving as a fiduciary, we are cognizant of issues that may arise in any administration, and seek to reduce the potential exposure of the fiduciary through authorized mechanisms such as notice and non-judicial settlement agreements.
We also represent guardians of incapacitated persons and minors in their fiduciary roles. In some circumstances, our attorneys have been appointed by local courts to serve as a general or temporary administrator, trustee or guardian.
Although disputes can be avoided in most circumstances, there are times where they are simply unavoidable and may cause strong emotional responses among family members. Our trusts and estates attorneys are experienced in dealing with these types of matters. Where beneficial, we work with litigators in our Litigation practice who have extensive experience with trust and estate matters.
Where necessary, we are fully prepared to resolve disputes concerning trusts and estates at trial. However, our main goal is to preserve family harmony while resolving the dispute in an equitable and cost-efficient manner to our client. In certain situations, we have been successful in resolving disputes prior to any pleadings being filed with the court (or shortly after initial pleadings are filed), resulting in great savings to the beneficiaries. In other circumstances, we consider the use of independent mediation services to resolve disputes prior to trial.
Some of the disputes that we are frequently involved with include, but are not limited to, the following actions:
- To admit a copy of a will to probate
- Concerning hand written wills or to admit a document as a writing intended as a will
- To compel production of a will
- To set aside a will or trust on the basis of lack of capacity and undue influence
- To compel an inventory and accounting
- Concerning the removal and surcharge of a fiduciary and for the appointed of a substitute fiduciary
- Concerning the interpretation of wills and trusts
- Concerning trust modifications
- Concerning creditors of estates or trusts
- Concerning fiduciary compensation
- To have a guardian appointed for a minor or incapacitated person
- Disputes with state and federal taxing authorities.
To learn more about our estate litigation practice, click here.