Honigman's Trusts and Estates Practice Group believes that estate planning is the art of designing, creating and executing a legal structure to reflect our clients’ goals and values, and to preserve their legacy for the benefit of family and community. Our Practice Group derives insight from our experience helping hundreds of families – from young entrepreneurs to established business owners – to structure plans responsive to their individual needs. Our uniqueness in the arena of estate planning lies in our ability to identify, clarify and understand the key economic, familial and practical considerations of our clients. The process we use, coupled with our exhaustive knowledge of applicable federal and state law, allows us to efficiently address complex issues and communicate solutions for:
- Multi-generational gifting and planning
- Transfer of a family business or large real estate holdings
- Charitable planning, including the creation of public charities and private foundations
- Creation and management of family offices
- Issues arising from blended families
- Unique tax and planning issues faced by real estate developers, venture capitalists and equity fund sponsors
- Valuation and transfer of works of art and intellectual property rights
- Complex life insurance strategies
- Administration of trusts and estates
By identifying and discussing each client’s unique goals, values and problems at the outset, we are also better able to anticipate potential issues that may arise after a client’s death. While our reputation for finding innovative solutions is well known nationally, our primary goal is to create practical plans that provide our clients with confidence and the peace of mind that their specific needs and intentions will be satisfied.
Estate planning is an ongoing process that continues throughout the client’s life. We work proactively with our clients to ensure that new developments in a client’s family or business, new laws and new regulations are properly reflected in the client’s plan.
Where litigation is required to clarify the terms of an existing document, to contest an IRS position on audit or to resolve a dispute among beneficiaries, our experienced estate litigators have successfully handled complex matters in state and federal courts and before the IRS.
Our estate planning clients benefit from Honigman's full service capabilities. Estate planning often involves tax, corporate, real estate, intellectual property, insurance and/or litigation issues. By drawing on all the resources of the firm, we ensure that our clients’ planning is comprehensive, targeted and efficient.
Honigman's Trusts and Estates Practice Group is very skilled in structuring and executing sophisticated wealth transfer plans that meet the client’s particular needs without being overly complex or needlessly risky. Our wealth transfer planning can reduce estate and other transfer taxes, transfer operating control and management of a business, transfer appreciation of a business while retaining management and control, protect assets from claims of future creditors, provide for multiple generations of a family, plan for future liquidity needs, and address the unique needs of blended families and same sex couples. We also have an extensive practice in drafting and negotiating pre-marital agreements that are integrated into the family’s larger planning.
Transferring a family business during one’s lifetime or at death is a challenge from a legal perspective, a business perspective and, most importantly, a family perspective. We have been involved in addressing business succession issues for large and middle-market businesses, as well as a large number of major real estate holding companies. In these situations, we work directly with all the stakeholders and their advisors to ensure that there is a cohesive plan of succession and that the necessary steps to execute the plan are completed in a timely fashion.
Honigman's Trusts and Estates attorneys have been involved in the formation and ongoing management of family foundations and public charities. We are authorities in the “new philanthropy,” which applies concepts from the venture capital and private equity markets to charitable giving. In addition, we represent our estate planning clients in structuring lifetime and testamentary charitable gifts, whether in the form of direct grants or various types of trusts (CRUTs, CRATs, FLIPCRUTs, CLATs, etc).
Due to the nature of our clientele, we have developed a proficiency in assisting our clients in evaluating the costs and benefits of single- and multi-family offices to handle multi-generational wealth. By assisting the family in the structure and formation of the family office, we make sure our clients create the type of office that is best suited to their particular situation.
It is increasingly common to address planning issues arising in second marriages, where there may be multiple sets of heirs from the current and prior marriages. This type of planning requires sensitivity to the various members of the family. We believe it is particularly critical in these situations to clarify overall goals and values and to make sure that the parents’ overall wishes are effectively communicated to the entire family. This is an area where experience and a willingness to listen are essential.
Unique tax and planning issues faced by real estate developers, venture capitalists and equity fund sponsors
The transferring of carried interests by fund sponsors can be particularly challenging due to the interplay of income tax, estate tax and federal and state securities laws. Due to Honigman’s large presence in representing fund sponsors in the corporate and real estate areas, we have developed an understanding of the legal and business issues that must be addressed to engage in estate planning in this particular area, including the proper structuring of fund documents and creating derivatives to address control issues.
Over the years, Honigman attorneys have been involved in handling estates with significant collections of art, antiques, musical instruments, and other collectibles and intangibles and are adept in dealing with the valuation and transfer (both to heirs and charities) of large collections. Drawing on the firm’s well-versed intellectual property law practice, we also have extensive experience in addressing the issues in connection with the valuation and transfer of copyrights, patents and other intellectual property.
Honigman's attorneys are deeply knowledgeable in evaluating and structuring complex life insurance strategies, working with colleagues who have extensive experience in life insurance advanced design. Our attorneys assist our clients in evaluating proposals from their life insurance agents and structuring the policy and the ownership of the policy to maximize benefits to the client at a minimal cost. We also are able to provide an independent evaluation of a client’s life insurance portfolio (particularly where clients have split dollar life insurance plans) and identify opportunities to improve the overall life insurance plan.
The ultimate success of any plan requires more than excellent initial planning. The administration of the estate after a death is also absolutely critical. One of the benefits of the time Honigman invests in getting to know our clients is the ability to assist the family in dealing with the estate during the difficult time following the loss of a loved one. Our process for administering estates involves coordinating the efforts of lawyers, accountants and financial professionals to handle issues as smoothly as possible. The depth of our department and the firm is important in estate administration where prompt, thoughtful and careful responses are required to deal with the family’s questions and concerns.
News & Resources
- Kathryn A. Katz is named in the Oakland Press article “Oakland County 40 Under 40 named, public voting begins”(January 25, 2016)
- Christopher A. Ballard is quoted in the Inside Counsel article “Law firm provides pro bono services to needy Detroit man”(February 24, 2015)
- Linda A. Wasserman’s board appointment is mentioned in the Detroit News article “New members join Community Foundation board”(February 6, 2015)
- Christopher A. Ballard’s election to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is mentioned in the Detroit Free Press section “Business leaders in the news”(January 24, 2015)
- Mary K. Mansfield and Kathryn A. Katz’s recognition for pro bono service by the Legal Aid and Defender Association is mentioned in the Detroit Free Press section “Business leaders in the news”(January 11, 2015)
- Linda A. Wasserman is mentioned in the Buffalo News article “Ralph Wilson’s will leaves no clues about sale of Bills”(July 31, 2014)
- Linda A. Wasserman named as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Women in the Law for 2012(July 27, 2012)Also featured in The Michigan Lawyer blog
- Linda A. Wasserman featured in the Oakland County Legal News article "Planning for posterity: Attorney's career spans 3 decades in trust, estate law"(June 18, 2012)Also featured in Macomb County Legal News and Washtenaw County Legal News
- Linda A. Wasserman discusses estate tax in MiBiz article "Estate Tax death creating chaos in estate planning"(February 15, 2010)
- Article published by Mary K. Mansfield, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, "The impending tax tsunami, and how it affects you"(November 19, 2007)
- Article published by Marguerite Munson Lentz and Regis A. Carozzo, "Estate Taxes and Their Impact on Your Business," Detroit Regional Chambers, Tips4Biz, 1/5/06(January 1, 2006)
- Honigman adds a partner to its Corporate Department(September 20, 2016)
- 27 Honigman practice areas and 107 attorneys recognized(August 17, 2016)
- Honigman’s Kathryn A. Katz named to Elite 40 under 40(February 10, 2016)
- Honigman adds an associate in its trusts and estates practice(October 12, 2015)
- 130 Honigman attorneys named in the 2015 Michigan Super Lawyers(September 8, 2015)
- Grand Bargain Transaction Closes(December 10, 2014)
- Honigman Partner Christopher A. Ballard Elected Fellow(November 10, 2014)
- City of Detroit’s Chapter 9 Plan of Adjustment Confirmed(November 7, 2014)
- 129 Honigman attorneys named in the 2013 Michigan Super Lawyers(September 17, 2013)
- Honigman ranked nationally by U.S. News - Best Lawyers® 2013 “Best Law Firms”(November 12, 2012)
- Legal Aid and Defender names Honigman Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year(October 26, 2012)
- 100 Honigman attorneys named in Best Lawyers® in America for 2013(September 20, 2012)
- Honigman Partner Linda A. Wasserman honored by Michigan Lawyers Weekly(September 20, 2012)
- Honigman ranked nationally in 2011 U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers®(November 16, 2011)
- Honigman attorneys named in Best Lawyers® in America for 2012(November 7, 2011)
- Honigman leads Michigan law firms with most Super Lawyers and "Rising Stars"(September 20, 2011)
- Honigman’s Oakland County office moves to Pinehurst Office Center(August 1, 2011)
- Christopher A. Ballard joins Honigman’s Trusts and Estates Department(January 17, 2011)
- Honigman named 2010 Law Firm of the Year by Community Legal Resources(December 16, 2010)
- Michigan Super Lawyers 2010 recognizes 64 Honigman attorneys(October 22, 2010)
- Honigman welcomes six new attorneys from its summer associate programs(September 10, 2010)
- Seventy-seven Honigman attorneys named Best Lawyers(August 23, 2010)
- Honigman elects 12 new partners(January 8, 2010)
- Seventy-six Honigman attorneys named in 2010 edition of Best Lawyers®(September 16, 2009)
- Honigman welcomes Jeffrey W. Barringer to its Oakland County office(February 29, 2008)
- Ten Things You Need to Know About Private Foundations (and other exotic charitable beasts)!, Financial and Estate Planning Council of Metropolitan Detroit and Leave A Legacy, Southeast Michigan, Dearborn, MISeptember 2013
- Planning Techniques for the Taxable Estate, ICLE Seminar, Plymouth, MINovember 29, 2011
- Joint Meeting of the Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Councils, Great Lakes Area TE/GE Council, Joint National Conference, University of Baltimore School of LawFebruary 4, 2011
- Tax Risk Management, Including the Implications of Schedule UTP (Uncertain Tax Positions), Tax Accrual Workpapers, Attorney Work Product and Privilege Rules after the Deloitte Case and Economic Substance Rules, KPMG Automotive Tax Share Forum at North American International Auto Show, Detroit, MIJanuary 13, 2011
- (Money) Ins and (Money) Outs of Private Foundations, Planned Giving RoundtableDecember 9, 2010
- What's Hot and What's Not - Gift Planning in a Low-Interest Rate Environment, Development Day Seminar, Leave a Legacy and the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsMay 28, 2009
- The Philanthropic Client, Plante & Moran Tax Technical ConferenceAugust 19, 2008
- Ten Things Every Lawyer Should Know About Nonprofit Corporations, Institute of Continuing Legal EducationMay 6, 2008
- Getting Your Family Board in Order, Council of Michigan Foundations 35th Annual Conference, Dearborn, MIOctober 23, 2007
- Family Offices - What Makes A Good Family Office, Michigan Association of CPAs 25th Annual Summer Management ShowJuly 28-29, 2006
- Drafting Estate Planning Documents, ICLE, Probate and Estate Planning Section, State Bar of MichiganJanuary 1999
- Whitepaper by Plante Moran and Honigman
- Charitable Remainder Trusts and Charitable Gift Annuities(Summer 2010)Michigan Probate and Estate Planning Journal
- Trustee Reports(April 2010)Trust Administration in Michigan Under the Michigan Trust Code
- Translating Knowledge About Environmental Health to Practitioners: Are we Doing Enough?(2010)77 Mount Sinai J. of Med. 1, 114-123
- The Impending Tax Tsunami, and How it Affects You - a review of the Michigan Business Tax and how it impacts individuals, trusts and investment entities(November 2007)Michigan Lawyers Weekly
- Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations(October 2007)Independent Sector
- Estate Taxes and Their Impact on Your Business(January 5, 2006)Detroit Regional Chamber, Tips4Biz
- Guide to Charitable Giving(1988)
- Possible end to valuation discounts(August 5, 2016)
- Federal Tax Incentives Available for Conservation Easements(June 10, 2011)