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Virginia Family Wealth Protection and Transfer Planning Practice

Core Objectives

  • Preserve and grow assets for family members
  • Protect assets from—
    • creditors
    • spouses of family members
    • unnecessary costs and delays of incapacity and probate proceedings
  • Minimize taxes by innovative and sophisticated strategies
  • Transfer assets to family members thoughtfully—
    • in keeping with donor's values and objectives
    • appropriately for donator's needs and responsibility
    • with flexibility to adapt to future changes in tax law and family circumstances
    • minimizing the likelihood of family disputes

Our McLean, Virginia law firm has a particular way of conducting our estate planning practice that we believe is different from the way many other firms and lawyers conduct similar practices. Prospective clients need to know how we approach our professional responsibilities so that our experience and commitment will meet their expectations.

Our estate planning attorneys have practiced under Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Arizona, and Texas law. We handle estate planning for domiciliaries of other states and other countries frequently, working with qualified local counsel in those other jurisdictions. In addition, we have contacts and the means to identify and recommend local counsel in virtually any jurisdiction.

Types of Documents We Prepare (Partial Listing)

  • Wills
  • Revocable Living ("Loving") Inter Vivos Trusts
  • Irrevocable Insurance Trusts
  • Irrevocable "Savings" or Accumulation Trusts for Children and Grandchildren
  • Generation-Skipping Trusts, including Perpetual "Dynasty" Trusts
  • Offshore Trusts Under the Laws of Foreign Jurisdictions
  • Private Foundations
  • Charitable Lead and Remainder Trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts ("QPRTs")
  • Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts ("GRATs")
  • Advance Medical Directives (Virginia)
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney (D.C., Maryland and elsewhere)
  • Living Wills/Natural Death Act Declarations (D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere)
  • Durable General and Limited/Special Powers of Attorney
  • Prenuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  • Partnership and Limited Partnership Agreements and Limited Liability Company Operating Agreements
  • Documents and Income Tax Planning for S Corporations, C Corporations, Limited Liability Companies

Philosophy of Our Practice

Our Commitment

Our principal goals for our clients in this practice are the following:

  • To insulate the family assets to the extent possible from income, estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes, to minimize taxes where they cannot be avoided, and to protect family assets from claims of potential future creditors.
  • To provide for appropriate management of the client's health care and efficient and thoughtful handling of the family assets in the event of a disability.
  • To arrange a smooth, quick, low-cost, discreet transfer of assets to surviving family members when a client dies, in a manner appropriate to each client's family and financial situation.

To effectively accomplish these goals we must gather from you and digest comprehensive factual information about your assets and your family. We also must LISTEN to you about your specific concerns and objectives and respond to those in the documents we prepare and the planning we implement.

Our attorneys are conversant with the most sophisticated tax and estate planning strategies, and we are constantly educating ourselves so we may present to our clients the latest, most innovative planning techniques that are sound and appropriate to our clients' situations. All our clients will receive the customized documents and planning they want and need.

Our estate planning attorneys pride themselves in returning all telephone calls and e-mails promptly and normally send documents out to our clients within two to three weeks of the meeting, sooner if necessary. We work with our clients so that they understand the relevant tax and state laws.

As in any case where you buy goods or services, comparison shopping is wise. You naturally want the best price. To comparison shop effectively you must compare comparable services.

Our prices are fair and we provide each client with an elaborate listing of fixed fee estimates (fee schedule) in our engagement letter. After we review your completed questionnaire and meet with you and listen to your concerns and objectives, we will provide to you a fixed fee proposal. In most cases our estate planning fees are fixed before the engagement commences, but in relatively rare cases our fees will be billed on an hourly basis. In either case the client will understand and agree to the fee arrangement before we get started. We take responsibility for any reasonable misunderstanding between us relating to fees. Like you, we do not want any confusion or surprises with respect to our fees. Proper estate planning will frequently save hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes and probate legal and accounting fees, millions in a large estate. An investment in our services should be one of the most cost effective investments you ever make. (NOTE: Most large law firms will bill for estate planning on an hourly basis, and will often charge four times or more what we would have charged for identical services.

Our master documents are our own. They have been painstakingly assembled over many years and are amended several times each year to reflect the latest legal and tax developments and experiences in our practice.

We believe our overall approach is unique in the marketplace. Our questionnaire, which we worked hard to develop, is comprehensive because the more we know about you the more likely it is that the plan you work with us to design will be appropriate for you. If we draft revocable or irrevocable trusts for you, we will also draft for you instructions for administering those trusts, so you remember why you signed them and how to use them 6 weeks and 6 years later. When we send documents to you, we will send a lengthy cover letter explaining each document and each element of your estate plan. Frequently for complex plans we prepare a chart so you have a "picture" of your plan. If you want, at no extra charge, we will provide to you any or all of the following documents:

  • Letter of instructions regarding custody of your general power of attorney
  • Memorandum regarding preferred distribution of tangibles
  • Memorandum regarding funeral service and disposition of mortal remains
  • Organ/eye donation form
  • Deed of gift form for transferring assets to revocable trust.

For high net worth individuals and families there are a number of sophisticated and highly tax-effective strategies designed to leverage the value of the estate tax exemption ($5,450,000 in 2016) and gift tax exemption ($5,450,000) and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption ($5,450,000 in 2009) to make them worth, in effect, 5- to 25- times their apparent face value. Many of these planning techniques are listed in our fee schedule. We will suggest and discuss with you those we believe may be appropriate to your situation, and we hope you will inquire about any you have a particular interest in. These would normally supplement the basic "package" of estate planning documents.

In particular there are a broad range of charitable giving strategies that can be designed to provide estate and generation-skipping transfer tax-sheltered benefits to family members and, at the same time, support of your family's customized charitable objectives.

We can send you our own outlines (typically prepared for other lawyers whom we are asked to instruct) and/or third-party articles to help you educate and inform yourself on any of these planning opportunities so that we can make an informed collaborative decision on whether any is appropriate for you and your family.

We will at no charge hold your executed original documents in our vault for as long as you like. At the close of our engagement we will send to you a tabbed, indexed three-ring binder containing copies of all of your documents. These copies will be stamped to reflect that the originals are in our vault. The binder will contain the comprehensive explanatory letter, all other material correspondence and instructions form administering all trusts.

If you wish, we will follow-up for you to transfer insurance policies to an irrevocable trust, dealing with the sometimes complex and intricate paperwork, or we can show you how to do this and merely review your work. If you make outright gifts to individuals or gifts to an irrevocable trust, we can prepare any necessary gift tax returns or review gift tax returns prepared by your accountant. We have particular expertise in preparing gift (and estate tax) returns with generation-skipping tax aspects, and we have found that many tax return preparers are unfamiliar with this area.

We can effect the transfer of assets to your revocable trust or show you how to. We find that an increasing majority of our clients choose to use revocable living trusts as their basic estate planning document, but many of the advantages of these trusts are achieved only if assets are titled into the trust during life. Preparing such a trust for a client without assisting the client in transferring assets into the trust is document drafting, not estate planning. On the other hand, revocable trusts are not a panacea, appropriate for everyone. In many cases the avoidance of probate and protection against incapacity can be achieved without using revocable trusts. We can provide you with elaborate materials on the pros and cons of revocable trusts, and facilitate your decision.

We will help you coordinate paperwork for your retirement plans with the benefits coordinator of your employer or other plan administrator. We will serve as a cheerful resource to answer all of your "dumb" questions (the only dumb questions are those you are too embarrassed to ask). If you like, we will review your parents' estate plans to help you coordinate your plans with theirs, or theirs with yours.

At your instructions, we will enthusiastically work as a team with your trust banker, financial planner, investment advisor, accountant or insurance agent to coordinate with them and enlist their services as appropriate to implement your estate plan and integrate it into your financial affairs. If you are looking for any of those types of financial advisors, we will refer you to top quality professionals we are accustomed to working with who have pleased others of our clients. We take a great interest in all matters which impact on the prosperity and financial security of our clients and in all strategies which minimize or alleviate their tax burdens.

Our attorneys will not solicit appointment as your Executor or Trustee. However, we are willing to accept such appointments in appropriate circumstances at the request of a client. We will help you to decide whether to name suitable, qualified family members or friends if any are available and/or banks or other institutional fiduciaries if the client is willing. In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to name other professional advisers as fiduciaries or co-fiduciaries. The burden and array of post mortem responsibilities and tax planning options are such that we believe only sophisticated individuals and institutions may be relied on to handle the responsibilities and opportunities appropriately.

In summary, we are highly motivated to educate ourselves about you and your circumstances, to listen to your anxieties, concerns and ideas and respond to them, to help you educate yourself about the law and your options, and to help you select an estate planning approach that is best tailored to your assets, family situation and overall financial plan. We are diligent and service oriented and are willing to do whatever is necessary to please you in order to become your "family lawyers."

If your situation is simple and straightforward, we can turn out very high quality documents as quickly and inexpensively as anyone. Keep in mind that drafting the documents is frequently the easy part of an estate planning engagement. What is more challenging is understanding the details of the client's finances, businesses and investments, the nuances of family relationships and the client's specific objectives so that the estate plan is integrated with and coordinates smoothly with every aspect of the client's financial affairs.


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