Trusts & Estates
Barclay Damon's estate planning services are performed for a variety of individuals, and in each case they are tailored to the needs of the particular client. Our services include development and implementation of estate plans, including analysis and implementation of gifting programs, and charitable donations, preparation and execution of wills, trusts, living wills, health care proxies, power of attorneys, and succession planning for family and closely held businesses.
We place special emphasis on the “human” side of the process, paying particular attention to the importance of the family and the individual personalities involved in all aspects of each matter. Whether a client’s goal is to protect, incentivize or assist their heirs, we work efficiently and creatively with them to tailor the best solution that not only meets their specific needs and desires but also minimizes their tax consequences.
Our trust and estate services include the traditional aspects of personal estate planning, such as the preparation of revocable and irrevocable trusts and wills, as well as counseling clients on insurance planning, charitable giving, valuation of assets for tax purposes, the formation and implementation of employee benefit plans, and other sophisticated mechanisms designed to pass wealth from one generation to the next as smoothly and effectively as possible.
We are experienced in probate litigation and we provide assistance in settling estates and trusts wherever our clients reside. A growing part of our service is retirement and financial planning for the elderly or incapacitated client, including counsel on healthcare decision making process. We take a firm-wide team approach to client representation, this lets us coordinate with attorneys in our litigation department on contested estate and trust matters; with corporate and tax attorneys regarding business planning, international tax planning and complex estate, gift and income tax issues; or with attorneys experienced in creditors’ rights for asset protection planning.
Estate Planning and Administration
Estate planning is a lifelong process in which clients regularly evaluate their situation and engage in planning for the future. It includes planning for retirement, for the possibility of disability, and for transfers at death. The estate planning process requires that clients consider a wide range of legal, financial, emotional, and logistical issues. Individuals, families and trust departments of major financial institutions depend on our trust and estate attorneys to manage the complex task of estate planning.
Wills & Trusts
Although most Americans are aware that they need to plan for the transfer of assets a death, the majority of us are not aware that a will is but one of many methods to transfer assets. If you have not planned for your assets at your death, , state law will determine what happens to your property. In addition, in the absence of a will, it will fall to the court to determine who will be guardian of your minor children and their property if there is no surviving parent. Trusts are useful tools for the estate planner. A trust is not appropriate for every client, and we provide straightforward advice as to what trusts can and cannot do as a part of an estate plan.
Our attorneys possess an in-depth knowledge of the legal, tax and personal issues that often accompany lifetime planning, from transferring closely-held businesses to the next generation, to planned giving with an emphasis on minimizing estate, gift and income taxes. Our experience in drafting simple and complex wills, various types of trusts, pre-nuptial agreements, health care proxies, and living wills and powers-of-attorney ensures that our clients’ objectives are fulfilled. For our clients who have charitable goals, we explore a diverse array of techniques tailored specifically to achieve those goals, while doing so in a tax-favored manner, including a Charitable Remainder Trust, Charitable Lead Trust or a Private Foundation.
Estate and Trust Administration
Our attorneys efficiently manage the disposition of our clients’ estates, from probate through final accounting. We address the needs of surviving family members and counsel fiduciaries on the legal issues regarding administering a decedent’s assets. We provide advice and representation on federal and state estate, gift and income tax issues that affect the estate or trust, its beneficiaries or fiduciaries. Where a trust is involved, we provide expert counsel throughout the term of the trust. We handle all aspects of estate settlement, from probating a will, collecting and valuating estate assets, and selling of real estate or other assets, to distributing estate assets including IRAs and other retirement assets , preparing tax returns, and assisting executors and trustees to account for the administration of the estate or trust.
We work with clients to review and identify assets, for example, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, insurance policies, retirement plans, deferred compensation agreements, employee benefit plans and closely held business interests. We also review the clients current and future liabilities and. utilizing this process, for both estate and gift tax purposes model various scenarios and evaluate tax implications for both estate planning and administration as well as gift planning.
Tax issues, whether state or federal are an important part of any planning recognizing and that tax laws may change , we design estate plans that are adaptable and flexible and take advantage of both pre and post death tax planning. For our clients who are currently, or may become, subject to the federal estate tax, we can explore a variety of techniques designed to reduce or even eliminate that tax. Through the appropriate use of these techniques clients can structure their estates to transfer considerable wealth to their children and grandchildren free of federal estate tax.
Estate & Trust Litigation
Our experience includes litigation with respect to contested probate and accountings, investment performance of estates and trusts, disputes involving closely-held corporations or share holder’s agreements, and validity of and the rights of a surviving spouse. In addition to Surrogate’s Court matters, our estate litigators have appeared in estate-related matters in many other judicial settings, including U.S. Tax Court, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division and Court of Appeals of New York.
Family Business Succession
Many of our clients own family or closely-held businesses, and we provide them with various planning options, including issues regarding transfer of ownership and management as well as tax, business, other legal issues necessary to understand the problems and solutions involved in to keeping a family business intact for future generations. Teaming with our Corporate and Tax attorneys, we explore techniques to reduce future estate taxes on the business and ensure a seamless transition to the next generation. The options we may share with clients may include:
- Negotiation and preparation of stock restriction agreements, cross purchase agreements, stock redemption agreements
- Methods of funding cross purchase and stock redemption agreements, including life insurance
- Methods of equalizing shares of family members who do not participate in the business
- Creation of family limited partnerships and limited liability companies to discount the value of the interests and reduce taxes
Personal Issues – Guardianship and Healthcare
As life spans have increased, more clients are confronting the challenging personal and financial problems that long-term care and medical expenses present, and they require proactive measures to avoid complications that could arise in the future should our client or a family member experience personal or health issues. We counsel clients on potential courses of action including guardianships, creating durable powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxies, and revocable “living” trusts, all designed to provide care and protection for our clients and minimize or avoid Court involvement.
Trusts & Estates Co-Chair
Trusts & Estates Co-Chair