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Estates and Trusts

Estates & Trusts

Our team can help you establish a sound plan that balances personal objectives with economic considerations. We are skilled in wealth transfer, trust and estate administration, probate procedure, and fiduciary income tax and related regulations for individuals and businesses.

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Estates & Trusts

The Foundation of Our Firm 

Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of wealth transfer techniques, trust and estate administration, probate procedure, fiduciary income tax, and related federal and state transfer tax laws.

At the time of our founding over 60 years ago, our focus was estate, business, and tax planning. Today, we continue to be recognized for our sophisticated and innovative estate planning practice for both individual and business clients.

Relationships Built on Trust

Every Godfrey & Kahn estate planning attorney is skilled in all aspects of our practice including:

  • The drafting of wills, trusts, and other sophisticated wealth transfer techniques
  • Administration of estates and trusts
  • Business succession planning
  • Charitable planning for individuals, private foundations, public charities and the state’s largest community foundations
  • Preparation of federal transfer tax returns, including the estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes
  • Estate, trust and fiduciary litigation
  • The representation of clients before the Internal Revenue Service and in local, state, and federal courts

Each member of our team provides our clients with a full range of planning services. These services often extend beyond economic and tax considerations, and address the personal concerns and issues important to our clients and families who rely on us for sound advice.

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Drafting Estate Plans

Some of the more common estate planning instruments that we draft for our clients include:

  • Wills
  • Revocable "living trusts" customized to our client's wishes and designed to take advantage of federal and state transfer tax exemptions
  • Irrevocable trusts, including:
    • Generation-skipping trusts that include multiple or an unlimited number of generations commonly referred to as "dynasty" trusts
    • Grantor trusts for installment sale transactions
    • Life insurance trusts
    • Minors trusts
  • Leveraged gifting techniques including:
    • Family limited partnerships (FLPs)
    • Installment sales to defective grantor trusts
    • Grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs)
    • Qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs)
    • Self-canceling installment notes (SCINs)
    • Annuities
  • Insurance partnerships
  • Charitable split-interest trusts, including charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts
  • Private foundations and charitable gift annuities
  • Durable powers of attorney and advance medical directives
  • Marital property agreements (both prenuptial and postnuptial designed to afford both tax and non-tax benefits)
Trust and Estate Administration

We provide a full range of legal services relating to trust and estate administration and probate administration. Such services include trust and estate accounting, preparation of fiduciary income tax returns for trusts and estates, federal and state estate tax returns, and federal gift tax returns. We also provide sound income tax planning advice to our clients with respect to their trusts and estates.

Our trust accounting department uses the most current equipment and software to provide our clients with complete accounting services for the trusts and estates we administer. Our accounting and tax services also allow us to provide sound income tax planning advice to our clients with respect to their trusts and estates, many of which hold business interests or the proceeds of the sale of business interests.

Business Succession Planning

Many of the firm's clients are founders of closely held businesses.

Over the years, the firm has grown along with these businesses and in many instances, we now represent members of the second and third generations. Often, this representation has spanned the full scope of the business cycle—from the birth and growth of the business, to a public offering or a successful ownership transition to members of the next generation, to the successful sale of the business followed by the beginning of a new enterprise.

Working with our corporate attorneys, we help clients achieve their business goals. We recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to business succession planning so we tailor our strategies to address our client's specific situation. Our experience also encompasses the implementation of planning techniques such as grantor retained annuity trusts, installment sales to grantor trusts, transfers to generation-skipping trusts, family limited partnerships, deferral of estate tax, redemptions, insurance trusts and the like to accomplish our clients' objectives.

We are experienced in valuation discount opportunities for our clients. In many cases, we have been able to transfer ownership of a client's business to the next generation through timely and innovative recommendations involving tax-effective lifetime and testamentary transfers that minimize or avoid the impact of federal estate and gift taxes on the business owners' estates.

Private Foundations and Charitable Planning

Many of our clients have charitable objectives as part of their gifting program and estate plan.

All members of the estate planning team are skilled in the use of various charitable gifting techniques, such as charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, charitable gift annuities, donor-advised funds, conservation easements, and private foundations to meet our clients' goals.

In fact, we were in the forefront of developing the effective use of charitable lead trusts in the early 1980s as a means to make distributions to charity while at the same time benefiting the client's children and grandchildren. These trusts pay an annuity or a unitrust amount to charitable organizations for a specified term and then continue for the benefit of the donor's descendants.

Through the informed use of charitable lead trusts, it is possible to transfer substantial amounts of wealth to younger generations at little or no transfer tax cost and accomplish the client's charitable objectives at the same time.

Representing Clients in IRS Proceedings

Our experience also encompasses the representation of our clients in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from the audit stage through trial court and appellate levels of the litigation process. For example, we were retained to represent an estate in a tax court case involving a multimillion-dollar deficiency asserted by the IRS, and we were successful in persuading the tax court to reverse three of its prior decisions, resulting in a complete victory for our client.

When Litigation Arises

We provide skilled legal representation in estate, trust, and fiduciary litigation. Our experienced litigators are here to help.

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We’re Honored to be Honored

We are honored by awards that reflect our vision for our work. Work-product awards like Best Law Firms and top tier rankings by Chambers USA and Benchmark Litigation help us attract and keep quality talent who are often recognized as Best Lawyers. Our people help us attract clients and build a team-oriented culture that's led to Top Workplace awards year after year.

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