LLF attorneys counsel a variety of individual clients and their families in a broad range of wealth management issues, including estate and business succession planning, trust and estate administration, estate and trust litigation, special needs planning and intergenerational estate and gift tax planning. Given our firm’s general business law competence, we are particularly well-suited to serve the needs of private business owners and their families, as we are able to coordinate with other attorneys in our firm in designing an estate plan that accounts for the succession of the business, valuation, buy-sell and other business issues.
Every estate plan begins with one or more meetings to gain a thorough understanding of a client’s personal, financial, and business goals, as well as their current finances and family situation. As our client’s personal business advisor, we often coordinate with his or her accountant, financial advisor, life and personal insurance brokers and other professionals to create a seamless estate and business succession plan.
With this information, we can then review and answer the client’s questions regarding the estate planning process, inform the client of any relevant estate and tax planning techniques to reduce or eliminate estate and gift taxes, including lifetime gifting opportunities, and address non-tax issues such as creditor protection, protection from divorce, special needs planning, planning for second or third marriages, and other legal and non-legal matters. By doing so, we can plan in the event of disability and ensure a smooth transition of wealth to a surviving spouse or children upon death.
Our estate planning services include the preparation of traditional estate planning documents, such as:
In addition, we can implement sophisticated legal and tax strategies such as:
A client’s business can be one of his or her most valuable assets. Establishing a succession plan to ensure the continuity of the business while maximizing a financial return for the owner and his or her family can be a challenge, especially if not put into place well in advance of a triggering event such as the incapacity or death of the owner.
LLF attorneys advise owners of closely-held businesses of all sizes to create exit strategies to ensure a smooth transition between current and future owners. It is not unusual for successful business owners to work with us to create a five or ten year exit strategy to minimize the risks associated with ownership and control disputes, intra-family squabbles, loss of key employees and significant reduction in value.
Working in conjunction with our corporate, labor and employment, and real estate practices, we implement business succession plans that include:
Upon the death of a family member, a surviving spouse, child or other individual is left with the sometime overwhelming obligation to administer the decedent’s estate or trust. We assist and instruct beneficiaries, executors, administrators, trustees and guardians of the person and estate in all aspects of the administration process, including:
The administration of estates can involve very complex financial, tax and personal issues. Often circumstances change, unforeseen events occur or the relationships between family members or other individuals break down for a variety of financial and personal reasons. This can lead to highly emotional disputes, especially after the death of a loved one. Even the most carefully constructed estate plans can be challenged. Our attorneys are sensitive to the issues involved and work to minimize the stress that can be associated with estate and trust litigation. The complexity of litigation, especially in matters involving estates and trusts, can also be expensive and lead to a significant depletion of assets. As a result, our goal is always to resolve the matter as quickly and effectively as possible to preserve the assets of the estate or trust.
Our estate planning and litigation practices work closely together in representing beneficiaries, executors, trustees and other fiduciaries to resolve disputes over the administration of an estate, wills and trusts. Our attorneys handle a variety of cases, including:
Current federal gift, estate and generations skipping tax rates are at 40%, which can have a significant impact on the transfer of wealth to a client’s beneficiaries. States, such as Illinois, also impose their own estate or inheritance tax as well. Fortunately, the current exemptions from transfer taxes are at their highest levels ($5,490,000 federal in 2017). Nevertheless, many of our high net worth clients significantly exceed these exemptions requiring additional tax planning. Our estate planning attorneys can provide guidance on the proper implementation of gifting strategies to leverage their exemptions to reduce or eliminate such taxes, including the preparation of family limited partnerships, installment sales to grantor trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts (GRAT), qualified personal resident trusts (QPRT) and charitable trusts. In addition to implementing these techniques, we prepare both estate tax returns (Form 706) and gift tax returns (Form 709) for our clients.
Special needs planning involves helping families make proper arrangements for a child or other relative who has a disability. We work with families to ensure their estate planning documents provide for the particular needs and circumstances of their loved one with a disability. This may involve creating a special needs trust for the child or other relative to ensure that means-tested public benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid, remain intact, even if an inheritance or gift is payable to the trust.
In addition, when a person with a disability receives an inheritance outright or a settlement or jury award in a personal injury lawsuit, care must be taken to ensure that person remains eligible for these means-tested public benefits. We advise individuals and families on their options, which may include certain types of special needs trusts or other alternatives to ensure public benefits are not reduced or eliminated.