ESTATE PLANNING, ELDER LAW AND ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
We believe that an estate plan should distribute wealth in accordance with a client’s personal values arising from his or her life experiences. We seek to insure that wills, trusts and beneficiary designations protect and promote the well-being of a client and his or her loved ones. Our success lies in the ability to explain, in simple language, difficult estate and trust concepts. After a client executes a series of estate planning documents, he or she leaves our office with a complete understanding of the manner in which their assets will be distributed and to whom, as well as the potential liabilities for estate tax and administration expenses. Our representation, moreover, continues beyond death or incapacity through all aspects of asset protection, probate, trust administration and estate tax proceedings.
Traditional Estate Planning
Traditional estate planning uses one or more of the following:
Simple wills, pour-over wills and wills containing testamentary trusts.
Revocable living trusts creating trusts for spouses and or children and grandchildren.
Generation skipping trusts.
Education trusts for children or grandchildren.
Powers of attorney and medical directives.
IRA, life insurance and annuity beneficiary designations.
Our wills and trusts are individually prepared by our estate planning attorneys to meet each client’s goals. We are proud to say that Robert F. Cohn, who heads our estate planning practice area, is the author of the Connecticut Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts Library forms and practice manual, published by Data Trace Publishing Company, a valuable resource for practitioners in Connecticut.
Estate Tax Reduction
State and Federal estate taxes continue to be of great concern to our clients. We are well versed in estate tax reduction planning techniques, not all of which are appropriate in every instance. The estate tax reduction tools that can be very effective include:
Irrevocable trusts such as life insurance trusts, spousal gifting trusts, multiple beneficiary gifting trusts, personal residence trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, intentionally defective grantor trusts.
Interfamily low interest loans and sale techniques.
Generation skipping trusts and dynasty trusts.
Family partnerships, family limited liability companies and fractional interest plans to create valuation discounts.
Gifting strategies involving annual exclusion gifts, tuition payments, charitable giving and generational gifting.
Binding cross purchase or buy-sell agreements.
Preferred stock recapitalizations and freeze partnership transactions.
Although the best results are obtained by using several different strategies employed over many years, there are options for estate reduction for a client with a limited life expectancy.
Elder Law is a practice area that specifically concerns seniors, veterans, and disabled individuals (of any age). Our elder law attorneys work with clients and their families to implement the most effective techniques to preserve and protect both our clients and their assets against future health care costs and long term care issues through the use of:
Health care directives.
Revocable or irrevocable trusts.
Personal care and rental agreements.
Family loan agreements.
Residence transfers to children.
Our clients are able to obtain the maximum allowable assistance for institutional skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living, or homecare assistance, all while preserving their estates for themselves and successive generations.
Our counsel are not only experienced in advising clients about asset protection and planning, but regularly counsel clients on residential and health care planning as well. Our staff visits clients at home and/or in senior communities. We evaluate not only the kind of care received, but the quality and nature of the residential environments in order to advise clients appropriately for the future.
Our attorneys lecture on Elder Law benefits in Connecticut. We have also appeared both on local and cable programming. Our attorneys participate in the Connecticut Bar Association’s “Veterans Benefits Workgroup” by providing estate planning and other assistance for Veterans. We regularly obtain various VA financial benefits for clients, including the Aid and Attendance pension, Service Connected Disability benefits for surviving spouses of deceased veterans, and the DOJ Civil Tort RECA award, which resulted in $90,000 being granted to the widow of a deceased veteran.
Special Needs Planning
Children or grandchildren with disabilities require sophisticated planning to insure that assets set aside for their benefit will not reduce or eliminate assistance otherwise available. Two types of supplemental needs trusts are available: 1) a statutory trust for the disabled person’s own assets and 2) asset protection discretionary supplemental needs trusts, created by family members to manage gifts and inheritances. Our attorneys have knowledge of entitlement programs and their administrative requirements.
For over 40 years, our firm and its predecessors have assisted families in their time of grief by completing the complex probate administration process. Our familiarity with the probate process and court personnel allows us to minimize conflict and delays. The probate administration process requires:
An application to admit a will to probate.
The judicial appointment of an executor or administrator.
The filing of an inventory and list of claims.
Preparation of an estate accounting and affidavit of closing, and conducting required hearings.
If disputes arise concerning an estate, including will contests, assets appropriated prior to death, malfeasance of fiduciaries or division of assets, our litigation attorneys are fully capable of resolving these difficult matters. Although many law firms claim to probate estates, we have the knowledge and experience to conduct the probate administration in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Post Mortem Estate Planning
The use of disclaimers and other sophisticated post-death planning techniques can substantially reduce estate taxes and protect assets for the benefit of the family. We are familiar with and routinely use such post mortem planning transactions to create flexibility and to fine tune the estate plan to apply to the circumstances existing at the time of death.
In certain circumstances, our attorneys serve as independent trustees of client inter-vivos and testamentary trusts. Independent trustees are required to protect trust assets from being subject to estate taxes. Independent trustees also serve to break deadlocks that could otherwise result in litigation. We have the capability to prepare accountings of trust principal and income transactions and to advise grantors, co-trustees and beneficiaries on income tax aspects of trust taxation and taxation of distributions.
Estate Tax Return Preparation
We have more experience in preparing federal estate tax returns and Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island estate tax returns than many accounting firms. Estate tax returns reflect the results of lifetime tax planning and techniques that have to be presented with care in order to minimize scrutiny. We work closely with appraisers to obtain proper valuations of non-marketable assets such as closely held business interests and real estate entities. In the event of an audit, we work very hard to defend successfully the positions taken on the estate tax returns and are able to litigate up to the tax court level to reduce additional estate tax assessments imposed by the IRS or state taxing authority as a result of the audit process.