Honigman's Private Client 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 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 Private Client attorneys are highly 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 Private Client 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 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.
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