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Estate Planning, Administration & Charitable Giving

Miles & Stockbridge lawyers are experienced in all aspects of preparing estate planning documentation and the administration of estates for individuals, families and charities.

Estate Administration

An estate plan is only effective if it is properly administered. Our lawyers' experience in the administration of the estate includes:

  •  Handling probate proceedings 
  • Collecting the information to prepare income and estate tax returns 
  • Coordinating with the decedent's professional advisors 
  • Advising on the determination, accounting treatment and valuation of estate assets
  • Choosing the right tax-favored elections, deductions and estate tax payment vehicles
  • Ensuring payment of claims, expenses and taxes
  • Disposing of and distributing estate assets

The settling of an estate frequently includes an ongoing business process, and we protect our clients' interests by efficiently coordinating the payment of all bills and taxes, and ensuring that any required asset sales reflect the most beneficial valuation. When asset liquidation involves commercial real estate or a family business, we work with qualified appraisers on valuation issues. In all our trust and estate administration activities, we combine efficient handling of the business and legal issues involved with an appreciation of the financial implication of those issues for our clients and their heirs.

Estate Planning

The creation of personalized estate planning documentation is at the heart of Miles & Stockbridge's estate planning practice. Our services are founded on the specifics of each individual's or family's asset structure, beneficiary relationships and special needs. We have developed estate plans and related documentation for estates ranging in size from far below the minimum federal taxable level ($1 million in 2003) to $60 million and more.

The estate plans and documents we prepare can be simple or complex, depending on the client's goals. Considerations include family goals, who is to benefit and the manner of delivery, children or other beneficiaries involved (particularly in remarriages), the size of the estate and resulting level of federal taxation. If a simple will suffices to safeguard the estate and legatees, we do not propose something more complex. What we prepare will ensure that the client's wishes are achieved. In more complex situations the estate planning vehicles we recommend may include a variety of trusts and/or business entities, often utilizing tax reduction strategies. Our estate planning lawyers are also skilled at creating supplemental care trusts that make specific provisions for the medical needs of older or disabled legatees. We also recognize that life insurance is an important part of an estate, and counsel on provisions and beneficiaries. The resulting document-preparation that we handle for such counsel includes:

  • Drafting wills and trusts
  • Preparing living wills and health care powers of attorney
  • Managing assets through the creation of a power of attorney or living trust
  • Establishing life insurance trusts to provide liquidity for the payment of estate taxes
  • Drafting credit shelter, generation-skipping and special-needs trusts
  • Structuring the use of lifetime gifts and marital or charitable deduction trusts to minimize or defer estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes
  • Preparing trust and gift-tax returns

For each element of the estate plan and resulting documentation, we thoroughly explain all the unique provisions and the way they operate to protect the estate.

Finally, when estate planning documentation involves a family business, our estate planning lawyers prepare all documentation to implement the wishes of the business ownership: succession plans, buy/sell agreements, family limited liability companies for transfer of assets and more. In these, as in all our estate planning and documentation, Miles & Stockbridge lawyers excel at developing customized solutions, ensuring that they take maximum advantage of all benefits allowed by the tax code and fully explaining those benefits and their operation to our clients.

Charitable Giving

Our lawyers are experienced at crafting charitable giving strategies that meet a wide range of needs for estate and tax planning as well as assisting nonprofit organizations. Central to our charitable giving counsel is the understanding that every individual, family and charitable organization has its own unique concerns and objectives, and we reflect that in the advice we provide.

The charitable giving instruments that we create as vehicles for tax minimization and financial planning reflect the full flexibility allowed by the tax code. They include:

  • Charitable remainder trusts that offer a very flexible means to donate highly appreciated assets (particularly marketable securities) without incurring substantial capital gain or other tax penalties 
  • Charitable lead trusts that let donors claim current deductions for charitable transfers occurring in future years by receiving a deduction on assets placed in the trust when it is created, and repays it by annually paying taxes on trust income 
  • Family trusts and foundations that shelter annual contributions and provide effective estate planning vehicles 
  • Donor-advised trusts and funds that receive contributions of cash or real property and then make gifts to other charitable organizations as advised by the donor

For these and similar vehicles, our lawyers draft the trust instruments and represent beneficiaries and trustees on fiduciary and operational matters.

Another aspect of our charitable giving counsel is working with charitable and non-profit organizations as a facilitator of charitable donations. We often interface with clients seeking to make charitable contributions to local chapters of organizations, counseling on the estate and tax planning aspects for the giver while ensuring maximum benefit to the recipient charity. Such work with donors and donees enables us to develop creative giving solutions that meet a variety of needs.