Trusts & Estates Department
The attorneys of the Obermayer Trusts & Estates Department have a great depth of experience in the areas of estate planning, estate and trust administration and fiduciary litigation. We believe in focusing on the client, the client’s unique situation and family circumstances, and identifying the client’s key goals. We represent individuals as well as corporate clients in their fiduciary roles as agents, guardians, executors and trustees.
We assist clients to evaluate their assets and their individual goals to create documents not only to provide for the disposition of assets following death, but also for family or generational planning, and healthcare and financial management during illness or incapacity. We understand that different types of assets may require different planning techniques. We also understand that family dynamics often require special care or unusual forms of management. Whether the circumstances involve assisting a blended family or exploring the long term care for an individual with a disability, we delve into the details to provide guidance and peace of mind. We work to minimize transfer and income taxes through a variety of planning vehicles to accomplish their goals. Our clients are well served by having individually drafted documents such as Wills (with or without tax planning), Financial Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Powers of Attorney with Advance Directives (Living Wills). In addition, we may recommend consideration of other documents or strategies such as: Irrevocable Trusts, Grantor Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence trusts, generation-skipping tax planning, Qualified Domestic Trusts, Special or Supplemental Needs trusts, or specifically tailored beneficiary designations for retirement planning. In certain circumstances, the planning will also include:
- Business Planning: Our business owner clients should also focus on business succession/transition planning in the event of the owner’s death or incapacity. Business owners may understandably want their business ventures to continue beyond their lives under the leadership of a next generation, or they may realize that the business should be sold either due to the absence of a clear successor owner/manager, or to provide liquidity for the family’s needs. We assist these business clients with an evaluation of their options, and provide guidance on the potential tax implications of business ownership, including a review of the structure in place. We assist clients with structured planning to prevent the depletion of liquidity in an estate for the payment of estate taxes while still providing for the short-term needs of the beneficiaries.
- Lifetime Gift and Tax Planning: Many of our clients wish to incorporate lifetime gift and tax plans for their family, relatives or charity interests. We utilize lifetime gifting strategies that minimize the individual’s taxable estate, protect beneficiaries from threats of divorce or financial insecurity, and achieve philanthropic goals. We use a variety of techniques to develop a gift plan that will achieve the most advantageous results to meet our clients’ tax and personal gifting needs, and assist with the preparation and filing of any required Federal Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax returns.
- Charitable Giving: For clients interested in charitable giving, our attorneys will evaluate the available options based on the client’s projected income needs and the desired timing of the charitable gift. Gifts may be outright, or may be planned through testamentary disposition or split-interest trusts. We frequently prepare charitable lead and remainder trusts for our clients. We also assist our clients with the formation and administration of family foundations.
In addition, we represent charitable organizations that are the designated recipients of gifts in the evaluation of the estate or trust from which they are to receive benefits, and we pursue their questions to the extent there are irregularities in the administration. Occasionally, a charitable organization is designated as an executor or trustee, and we assist them in their fiduciary capacity as well.
Estate and Trust Administration
We routinely represent executors and trustees on the proper and most tax-efficient means of administering probate and non-probate estates and trusts. We assist with the probate process, collection and valuation of assets, notices to appropriate parties, preparation and filing of all necessary forms, inventories and tax returns (estate, inheritance, gift and income taxes), sale of real property and business interests. We prepare fiduciary accounts for the settlement of estates and trusts in an informal setting, as well as with formal court audits. In addition, if a tax return has been challenged, we handle appeals of adverse tax decisions. We also represent guardians of incapacitated persons or minors in the administration of fiduciary funds for the benefit of such individuals.
In the area of trust administration, we provide the necessary bookkeeping and tax return preparation for on-going trusts, and provide guidance on fiduciary duty and proper investment management. We frequently represent fiduciaries in connection with the filing of interim accounts, or other uncontested proceedings before the courts.
When the administration of an estate or trust does not proceed smoothly, we represent executors, trustees and beneficiaries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in a wide variety of actions including will contests, the interpretation and reformation of wills and trusts agreements, contested audits, surcharge actions and the removal and compensation of fiduciaries and tax proceedings. We also represent individuals with respect to the appointment and removal of guardians, and filing of annual reports (for the guardian of the person or guardian of the estate), as well as guardian’s accounts.