Trust, Wills & Estate Planning

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Our goal is for you to feel that your attorney has prepared you for both — through a sound estate plan that secures your assets and minimizes the amount of taxes that you and your beneficiaries pay during your lifetime and at death. We work to ensure that your affairs are in order so that your beneficiaries avoid much of the financial and emotional burdens that may accompany your death.

Asset Protection

Click “Asset Protection” to view our Asset Protection practice group page.

Probate & Trust Administration

Click “Probate & Trust Administration” to view our Probate & Trust Administration practice group page.

Estate Planning & Probate

We advise clients on the full spectrum of estate planning, estate administration, personal financial planning, charitable giving and wealth-transfer opportunities. We prepare wills, living trusts, and advance health care directives. An estate plan can help you to avoid probate, the process of administering a deceased person’s estate through the courts. Without a solid tax and estate plan, your family or friends could experience serious problems upon the settlement of your affairs. A typical estate plan includes a Revocable Living Trust, Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive/Living Will. Each has important, unique elements that will give peace of mind to you and your family, protect your assets, and save you money. We also prepare insurance trusts, charitable trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, family limited partnerships, limited liability companies, foundations and other sophisticated estate planning tools. Additionally, we handle probates, administration of trusts and estates, and we prepare federal gift and estate tax returns.

Living Trusts

To simplify and maintain better control over your assets, you can move your property into a Living Trust. It will give you flexibility in determining how, when and to whom you want to distribute your assets.

A Living Trust provides the following advantages:

  • A Living Trust facilitates faster and easier administration of your estate by avoiding Probate.
  • A Living Trust allows you to privately manage assets for minors, loved ones with special needs, those with creditor issues or even those with substance-abuse problems.
  • If you have a taxable estate, a Living Trust can eliminate or reduce taxes.
  • If you become incapacitated, Trust assets are held for your benefit without requiring a court-appointed guardian.
  • Living Trust protects the privacy of your affairs.

With a Living Trust, you maintain control of your assets as the Trustee throughout your life, and you retain the authority to amend or revoke your Trust at any time.

Wills

A Will is an important aspect of a sound estate plan. For most estates, an effective plan includes a very simple Will that makes sure all your assets are transferred into your Living Trust so that your estate-distribution requests are respected. Without this simple Will, state law dictates how many assets (not held in your Living Trust) are distributed. A Will additionally allows you to elect the guardian you choose for your minor children. In the event any assets are not transferred into your Living Trust, or if a Will is used as the primary tool for transferring assets without the use of a Living Trust, your estate will likely be required to pass through Probate. Probate is the process of asset distribution through the courts. This process is open to public review and is generally time-consuming and expensive. The probate process can be eliminated through the proper use of a Living Trust.

Durable Power of Attorney

You may appoint an agent to take care of your legal and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This is accomplished through a Durable Power of Attorney. Without one, no one can fully represent and manage your financial affairs unless a court appoints a guardian. The guardianship process is expensive and time-consuming, and a judge may not appoint the person you would choose.

Health Care Directive/Living Will

Health Care Directive allows you to name a health care agent to perform the following on your behalf if you become incapacitated: consent to admission to a health care facility, hire or fire health care providers, ask questions and get answers from health care providers, obtain copies of medical records, and consent to perform or withdraw any health care. A Living Will (which may be included in a Health Care Directive) also allows you to dictate the types of life-prolonging medical care you wish to receive if you cannot speak for yourself.

Updating Your Estate Plan

If you already have an estate plan, it is important to periodically review it. You should make updates to your plan:

  • When you note a substantial increase or decrease in the value of your estate.
  • Every three to five years to discuss the effect of changes in state or federal laws.
  • In the case of divorce or marriage.
  • When your named beneficiaries, guardians, personal representatives, trustees, etc., need to be changed due to birth, adoption, death, or changed circumstances.
  • When moving to a new state.

Individual Tax Matters

Individual tax matters can get complicated—and the more assets you hold, the more imperative it is to make sure you have the legal plans necessary to protect and manage your wealth. We help with individual income tax matters, including the following:

  • establishing charitable trusts and private foundations;
  • performing income tax planning for individuals and businesses;
  • arranging and documenting charitable gifts;
  • planning for capital gains transactions;documenting simultaneous and deferred like-kind exchanges;
  • handling tax appeals and disputes with the IRS and state taxing authorities; and
  • dealing with state and local taxing authorities.

Federal and State Tax Litigation

We have experience representing clients in federal and state tax matters in courts and before tax authorities. Our tax attorneys are admitted to practice with the United States Tax Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.