Trusts & Estates
At Lewis Brisbois, we are dedicated to a counseling-oriented estate planning process. Our goal is to provide you with the highest level of legal counseling, services, and support when we help you to design, create, and maintain your customized estate plan. To do so, we utilize LifeSpan Legal Services™, a comprehensive planning process designed to empower and engage our clients in their estate plan to better ensure predictable, positive results. You can trust our estate planning attorneys to provide you with the effective guidance you need.
Our services include:
- Personal estate planning (one-on-one estate planning process)
- LifeSpan Legal Services™ (comprehensive, ongoing estate planning process)
- Advanced planning (for families with wealth exceeding $30 Million)
- Asset protection planning (protection against losing your assets to unwanted creditors or predators)
- Business planning solutions (help and guidance for business owners)
- Business succession planning (comprehensive confidential analysis of your business’s current succession plan by a qualified business and estate planning attorney)
Estate Planning Services
Estate planning and asset protection doesn't end with creating a will. A trust enables you to have total control over your wealth, as you are able to specify exactly how you would like your assets to be handled in the future when you cannot all while avoiding the additional cost, delay, complication, and publicity of probate.
There are many types of trusts, but each is designed to give you complete control over who gets your assets, when they get your assets, and how they get your assets after you are gone. Whether you are looking to ensure that your loved ones are provided for after you are gone or you are interested in contributing to your favorite charity, our estate and trust lawyers can help you determine which option best meets your current and future needs.
Revocable vs. irrevocable trusts
While there are many types of trusts, all fall into one of two categories: revocable or irrevocable.
Revocable trusts, also called living trusts, enable you to arrange for how your assets will be distributed upon your disability or passing but also allows you to control your assets during your life. This flexibility extends even further, giving you the power to dissolve the trust entirely at any point if you so desire. These trusts can help your beneficiaries avoid the lengthy probate process upon your death; however, your assets included in the trust will still be subject to estate taxes.
Conversely, the main benefit of irrevocable trusts is that they transfer your assets in a way that typically protects them from both probate and estate taxes. However, once this type of trust has been executed, you lose control over the assets and cannot change or dissolve the trust at any point.
We have extensive experience with many types of revocable and irrevocable trusts, including:
- Charitable trusts
- Credit shelter trusts
- Testamentary trusts
- Irrevocable living trusts
In addition to overseeing trust administration, we are able to provide you with strong legal representation during trust litigation.
Do I need a lawyer to set up my trust?
It is possible to create a trust without the assistance of an attorney. However, retaining an attorney who specializes in trust and estate law allows you to use their experience and knowledge to set up a secure and legally sound trust. Additionally, you may have a unique situation or specific questions that are best answered by an experienced trust lawyer. You should consult with a lawyer if:
- You want to set up a trust for a special needs loved one
- You have a high net worth estate
- Your estate plan includes complex arrangements, such as generation skipping
- You have questions about how state law will impact your trust
Creating the trust that's right for you
Our trust attorneys are specifically experienced and equipped to look over your assets, listen to your concerns and desires, and draft a trust that you can have complete confidence in, taking all the relevant considerations into account. Our team has extensive experience overseeing the creation and administration of trusts—a legacy in which we invite you to take part.
Passing away without a will means that your property would be distributed according to your state law, which transfers property directly to the closest relatives in existence. Those given the highest priority are spouses and children. Grandchildren or parents are next in line to receive the property. If the court fails to track down viable living relatives, the state will then claim your property.
While wills are not legally required, it is important to understand that without a will, the state will determine who is in charge of your assets and who will receive your assets. Oftentimes, however, the default of the law does not align with the wishes of the deceased and leaves many details to the discretion of the state.
Our will lawyers can prevent this, and we have years of experience with it.
- Living wills
- Estate taxes
- Statutory wills
- Contesting wills
- Advance directives
- Matters concerning beneficiaries
A will provides many benefits, one of which is a peace of mind. If there was an option available that allowed you to have complete confidence that your assets would be handled according to your final wishes, why would you not make that happen? We prioritize what you prioritize and legally document it in your will. Whether through providing for loved ones, granting charitable gifts, or creating a trust for your spouse or children on your behalf, you can rely on Lewis Brisbois.
LifeSpan Legal Services™ is a comprehensive, ongoing planning process designed to empower and engage clients in their estate plan and better ensure predictable, positive results with confidence and peace of mind.
Through ongoing education, collaboration, and comprehensive planning, we build and sustain an estate plan that consistently reflects what’s important to you as well as current legal and tax guidelines.
LifeSpan guiding principles
- Ongoing education - so you are informed and empowered to understand every element of the estate planning process and your estate plan.
- Ongoing collaboration - so you are engaged in your plan and so that your plan reflects your wishes.
- Proactive settlement - so there are no surprises for your family upon your passing.
- Peace of mind - so you can enjoy your life and family without the worry.
What you get with your LifeSpan membership
- Education: Ongoing education, including annual family reunions and other educational workshops for members and their families.
- Updating: Estate planning document updated at least every two years to reflect your goals and family changes, as well as tax and law changes.
- A contract for reduced costs upon your disability or death: Ongoing contract for trust settlement fees so there are no surprises regarding legal fees for your loved ones.
- Continued assistance: We continue to work with you, answer questions, and handle funding to help make sure your plan works for no additional cost.
- Discounts applied to other legal services: We offer cost-efficient legal planning to our LifeSpan clients at reduced rates.
Do you have an asset protection plan? If not, you could lose some or all of your assets to unwanted creditors or predators. With a well-crafted asset protection plan, you can help ensure certain assets are protected from being seized by unwanted creditors or predators.
You should consult with a knowledgeable lawyer to determine which of your assets are already protected and which ones need to be defended. A skilled attorney can help you make a customized, bulletproof asset protection plan that will ensure you are covered in the event of a crisis.
Our asset protection lawyers have extensive experience in this complex area of law. Over our years in practice, we have developed a comprehensive understanding of asset protection law. Our legal team can work closely with you to create an asset protection plan that fits your specific needs.
Who benefits from asset protection planning?
Asset protection isn't just for high-net-worth estates. Anyone can benefit from asset protection counsel. It is always best to plan ahead of time, before problems arise with creditors or lawsuits.
We strongly encourage you to reach out to us about establishing an asset protection plan if you:
- Own a business
- Own multiple real estate properties
- Have significant assets in savings, stocks, or trusts
- Expect to gain significant retirement or disability benefits
Whether you have a high net worth estate valued at tens of millions of dollars or an estate worth tens of thousands of dollars, we have the experience required to effectively protect your estate.
How we can assist you
There are many different legal instruments we can use to help protect your assets. You worked hard to accumulate them, so you should ensure they are fully protected from unwanted creditors and predators. By working with our experienced asset protection attorneys, you can have peace of mind knowing you have a comprehensive and effective safety net.
HIGH NET WORTH PLANNING
At Lewis Brisbois, our high net worth planning services are geared for those families with a net worth exceeding $30 million dollars. Backed by extensive experience, our attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of estate and estate tax law. We can help you make well informed decisions as we navigate you throughout every stage of the estate planning process. You can trust us to effectively protect your rights, assets, and best interests.
Our estate planning strategy for high net worth individuals
The first step in any planning process is to learn as much as possible about the client. We do this with you through data gathering and goal setting. We provide a Data Gathering Form and the Family Wealth Goal Clarifier™ tool to help you in this process. We will collect substantial amounts of data, financial information, legal documentation, and tax returns. These are critical for a successful outcome.
You can find the aforementioned tools here:
The Family Wealth Goal Achiever™ is a plan design book (like a blueprint) that explains in easy-to-understand text and graphics the planning ideas being recommended by the planning team.
While all design plans vary from client to client, most will contain certain elements.
We start with the Periodic Table of Estate Planning Elements, a page that outlines many of the strategies we could consider for a client’s given situation.
Please click on the links below to download the tools:
- Download Periodic Table of Estate Planning Elements
- Download Minimizing Danger, Maximizing Opportunities Overview
The next step in the process is plan implementation. This typically involves legal work, financial work, accounting work, and insurance work. Other advisors will be needed to complete this process and we look forward to working with your other trusted advisors.
Every plan should be reviewed at least once each year. Plan numbers are rerun, balance sheets and cash values are updated, plan documents for wills and trusts get reviewed for compliance and continued suitability, and funding is updated. In addition, actions of the plan participants should be reviewed to make sure that errors are not inadvertently made. Tax returns should be reviewed (preferably before filing) to make sure that they are being done consistent with the plan itself.
While many people take steps to avoid the expense and frustration of probate, even the best-laid estate plans can fail. During the probate process, the property and other assets of the decedent are evaluated and distributed to the rightful heirs. The probate lawyers at Lewis Brisbois can help you through the probate process in an efficient manner, regardless of the particulars of your situation.
What probate entails
There are some exceptions to the property that is subject to probate which our probate attorneys can help you to understand.
Some of the main tasks of probate are:
- Determining if there is a valid will
- Transferring ownership of real estate
- Paying necessary taxes and debts on time
- Determining which property and assets belong to the estate
- Converting assets to cash to be able to distribute to the beneficiaries
- Appointing an executor to the estate, if one was not provided in a will
Many people want to know how they can avoid the complexities of the probate process. Generally, certain assets bypass probate.
Assets that bypass probate include:
- Retirement accounts properly set up with a beneficiary designation
- Funds in Payable on Death, or POD, bank accounts
- Life Insurance properly set up with a beneficiary designation
- Securities registered in transfer on death, or TOD, forms
- Pension Plans properly set up with a beneficiary designation
- Wages due to the deceased person
- Property held in a living trust
- Assets owned jointly by spouses
At Lewis Brisbois, we can help you with setting up a trust for any assets that don't immediately fall into these categories so you can easily pass your estate to your heirs without requiring probate. We can also advise you on whether or not your estate would benefit from the probate process.
Facilitating a smooth transition
If a loved one in your life has passed away, contact our probate lawyers to discuss what your next steps will look like. Ideally, the decedent left behind a will outlining their intentions for their estate. In the case there is no will, we hope that after reviewing the situation all parties with a vested interest can agree that entering into formal probate proceedings in court won’t be necessary. Unfortunately, however, that is often not the case. Whether or not the proceedings become contentious, we will be there to make sure you are being treated fairly and receive everything to which you are entitled.
Putting an effective estate plan together can be a daunting task. Perform a simple search of the internet and you are faced with millions of different voices telling you how you “should” do your estate planning. While good information can be helpful as you navigate this complex process, bad information can be just as harmful. How do you navigate the vast amount of information available to you? These free resources provided by Lewis Brisbois will help you start the information-gathering process and decide which path of estate planning works best for you and your loved ones.
Feel free to view any of our resources below:
- Estate Planning Checklist
- Glossary of Commonly Used Terms
- Asset Ownership, Beneficiary Designations, & Transfer Verification Table
Important Estate Planning links
- DocuBank® - www.docubank.com
- Estate planning - www.estateplanning.com
- Wealth Counsel, LLC - www.wealthcounsel.com
- The National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys - www.nnepa.com
What to do if a family member dies
What do I need to do now? That is the question we hear from clients after the death of a loved one.
Losing a loved one is a difficult and emotionally draining experience. Yet, during this time, you must endeavor to fulfill a variety of tasks and make important financial decisions. You may need to settle the individual’s estate, notify various government agencies and businesses, make final arrangements, and provide for your own financial needs. We suggest that you contact our office to determine what your next steps should be.
Business Planning Solutions
At Lewis Brisbois, we offer help and guidance to business owners, whether you are just starting out or you have been running a business for years. Working closely with your accountant and other advisors, we will counsel you regarding the best strategies for your success.
Backed by extensive experience in this complex practice area, we have a comprehensive understanding of business law. You can rely on us to provide you with the sound guidance and effective legal services you deserve.
We offer the following business services:
- Exit planning – planning for your successful exit from your business
- Entity creation – creating a new business entity for your business, including corporations and LLCs
- Entity maintenance – helping keep your books and records up to date, including annual minutes
- Buy/sell agreements between shareholders or members
- Tax planning and wealth preservation strategies
- Educational programs
Our experienced business attorneys have a long track record of success for our clients and have helped countless business owners over the years. Our legal team will take an in-depth look at your situation and work closely with you to figure out the best way to proceed.
Our firm utilizes innovative solutions to answer our clients’ problems. Regardless of how difficult your situation is, we have the experience and legal knowledge to help you resolve it. We truly care about our clients and will do everything we can to help you get the results you need.
BUSINESS SUCCESSION EVALUATION (BSE)
Business Succession Evaluation (BSE) is a comprehensive, confidential analysis of your business’s current succession plan by a qualified business and estate attorney. This evaluation is offered by Lewis Brisbois at no obligation to you. The process considers how all of your goals and objectives as the business owner, as well as those of any other owners, are reflected in your current plan and, when appropriate, provides planning alternatives that better achieve your desired results. This process confirms that your plan transitions the business to whomever you wish in the most efficient manner possible. Our lawyers can assist you at every stage of the estate planning process.
Provide for your family
BSE confirms that your business succession plan will provide full and fair value for the business interest. If planning deficiencies are identified, alternatives are provided to ensure your business continuation objectives are met.
Retain control of the business
Without a suitable business succession plan, former spouses and children of a deceased owner commonly become unintended business partners of the surviving owner(s). BSE verifies that the business interest of a deceased owner will remain with surviving owners.
While each business owner’s first planning priority is often to provide for his/her own family, they also care about the employees and their families. BSE confirms that a plan is in place to continue the business and assures your employees of their future employment.
Changing business value
Failure to periodically review the value of a business to ensure the appropriate amount of funding is available may result in a shortfall when required funds are needed for a buyout. The BSE process includes a detailed analysis of the current and projected business value to make certain the business owners’ heirs receive fair value for their business interest and are not left wanting due to inadequate funding.
Facts about business succession planning
- On average, 37% of the business owner’s net worth is tied up in the business.
- Only 27% of business owners have a succession plan in place.
- Less than 30% of family-owned businesses survive to the 2nd generation and less than 12% to the 3rd generation, with only a 3% survival rate to the 4th generation.
What is the process?
- Step one: Gather the information. Your completion of the BSE Business Owner Profile, a copy of any existing buy-sell agreements, and the last three years of financial statements provide the necessary data to initiate the process with our office.
- Step two: Analysis. The objective analysis of the business succession plan includes (1) a review of your goals and objectives, (2) a review of the buy-sell agreement, (3) identification of potential risks, and (4) presentation of more efficient planning alternatives. The results of the analysis are contained in a comprehensive, easy-to-understand report. This is offered at no obligation to you.
- Step three: Results meeting. Our experienced business attorneys will present the report identifying planning alternatives and suggested updates. An action plan clearly identifying the next steps will be presented and, if desired, our experienced business attorneys will do this in collaboration with your team of professional advisors, including financial planners and accounting firms, to ensure that your planning goals are met.