Estate Planning Law
The Vermont attorneys in our Estate Planning Group can provide high-quality and responsive legal services tailored to your needs in the following areas:
- Wills and Revocable Trusts
- Probate and Trust Administration
- Powers of Attorney
- Advance Medical Directives
- Fiduciary Representation for Trustees
- Elder Law/Financial Exploitation Litigation/ Fiduciary Litigation
- Tax and Business Succession Planning for Individuals, Family Businesses, and Corporations (Including Shareholder Agreements)
- Supplemental Needs Trusts
- Life Insurance Trusts
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
- Grantor Trusts
- Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Corporations
The first step we take is to meet with you to get to know you, your goals and any issues that are of concern to you. We want to know your priorities and your concerns, so our first meeting is an extended discussion about your goals and your questions.
The next step is to have you complete a questionnaire that will give us more information about: your family; your current financial advisors and accountants who you may be working with in the future; your history of estate planning work; and other information regarding your general asset portfolio. This is a daunting task for some, but this is a critical set of documents since they will be used by your attorney to frame and draft your estate plan. There are likely to be several meetings, with draft review by you of your estate planning documents, before we arrive at a final set of documents that will make up your estate plan. Typically, at the end of this process, you will have a Will, a power of attorney for financial/legal matters, and a medical directive for health care decision making. We may also advise that you create one or more trusts, or even a family-owned limited liability company. Finally, we will advise you regarding assets that can pass outside of the probate process, using tools such as designation of beneficiary forms for life insurance, annuities, pensions, bank and brokerage accounts, and IRAs. The result is an integrated plan that disposes of all of your assets according to your wishes, with a minimum of estate administration and taxes.
Our work for you begins again when we have to implement any or all parts of your estate plan for your benefit, or for the benefit of your loved ones. When you become incapacitated and are dependent upon your trustee to pay living expenses, or your agent under a Power of Attorney has to make medical choices for you, we are there to assist your agents and to make sure that your wishes are respected. When a client is dying, we are there to help the agents and family to support the client’s needs prior to death and afterward, to educate the family or beneficiaries on the overall estate plan, and to advise the executors or trustees on their duties and on the process of administration of an estate.
Business Succession Planning.
Estate planning often involves succession planning for your business. Succession planning revolves around issues such as who owns the business; whether they will continue the business or sell it; whether there are heirs who are involved or not involved in the business; whether the business constitutes the bulk of the estate; whether you hope to equalize all bequests from your estate, and so on. These issues often involve more than just finance and taxes. They involve personal decisions and judgments. We can alert you to the issues, explain your options, and help devise a plan that makes sense for you.
Estate planning must be done with an eye toward taxes. Recent changes in the laws have favored taxpayers, but Vermont estate taxes, as well as federal estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, can still be very onerous if they apply. Generally, your taxable estate includes everything that you own, including real estate, cash and investments, personal property, life insurance proceeds, pensions, IRAs, receivables, other assets, assets over which you have a power of appointment, and certain trusts established for your benefit. We provide counsel to individuals and family-owned entities whose assets range in value. We can confirm whether taxes are an issue for your estate, and, if so, we can guide you through this complex area of the law and accomplish your goals while minimizing the taxes.
Probate and Trust Administration.
Our team brings decades of legal experience to bear on probate proceedings such as voluntary and involuntary guardianships and estate probate proceedings. We have successfully handled complex international estate matters, foreign ancillary estate work, and international asset tracing for estates and guardianships.
We draft trust documents to meet a variety of needs for our clients. We also evaluate trusts and other documents for trustees and beneficiaries, and advise clients about their rights and fiduciary duties under the documents. We also assist Trustees and Executors in administering the assets of decedents, providing advice regarding compliance with state and federal laws, including tax laws, as well as counsel in resolving any disputes that may arise among beneficiaries and family members.
Issues that face the aging community in our state are complex and varied. In our Elder Law practice we work on issues involving choices around financial security, end of life medical care, advocacy for medical and social support for terminally ill clients, estate planning, trusts, and litigation in situations where financial exploitation has occurred.
We work as a team to ensure that our clients have their wishes respected as to medical care, supportive care in their homes, or placements out of their home. We also have experience litigating cases to recover assets and/or to stop financial exploitation of elders by family members or nonrelatives.