Areas of Focus
We are a boutique will, trust and estates firm that assists clients with all aspects of estate planning and administration. Listed below are just some of our particular areas of expertise and focus. We are proud to offer clients thoughtful, creative and hands-on solutions to some of life’s most sensitive and complex subjects.
Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning
Our general estate planning services include the preparation of wills, revocable and testamentary trusts, durable powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and advance directives for a natural death (living wills). These documents are crafted specifically for each client, based on their financial and family needs and concerns. We regularly advise clients on the following issues:
- Guardianship and trusts for minor children
- Protecting a child's inheritance from creditors and divorce
- Options to control the amount and timing of payouts
- Protecting inheritance if a spouse remarries
- Planning for substance abuse issues
- Creation of supplemental needs trusts
Wealth Transfer Strategies
We counsel clients on sophisticated wealth transfer techniques, designed to minimize or eliminate estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes. While this can be a complex area, we are committed to creating strategies that the client understands and feels comfortable implementing. Our attorneys also prepare associated federal gift tax returns or work closely with the client's accountant in such preparation. Some of the techniques we may employ include:
- Installment sales
- Planning with generation-skipping trusts
- Grantor retained annuity trusts
- Life insurance trusts
- Qualified personal residence trusts
- Intra-family loans
- Creation of family partnerships and limited liability companies to provide for family management of assets and facilitate gifting
Business Succession Planning
Closely-held business owners have unique planning needs when it comes to the transfer of ownership and management of their business to the next generation. It is imperative to design a plan that not only facilitates a smooth transition with minimal impact to business operations, but also maximizes family harmony.
For us, this means getting to know not only our clients and their businesses, but also their children and the family dynamics. We help our clients consider the difficult questions of whether their family members can effectively work together for the benefit of the business and whether they have the ability and desire to run it. Then, we design an effective business succession plan that meets the needs of our client, the business and the family. We often recommend and assist with the creation or restructuring of corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies to achieve these planning objectives.
Pre and Post Marital Agreements
Marriage is one of the most significant personal decisions an individual will make, and it is important to consider and plan for how that union will affect your future financial situation. We counsel clients on the benefits of premarital agreements, not just to protect assets in the event of divorce but also to allow clients the freedom to leave their assets at death to their chosen beneficiaries. This is particularly important in second marriages, where spouses may wish to leave their assets to children from a prior marriage. Elective share laws that require a certain percentage of assets to pass to a spouse can frustrate this goal without proper planning.
For clients that are already married, we can assist them with the preparation of post-marital agreements to accommodate circumstances that arise as the couple ages. Our attorneys also regularly implement planning strategies to deal with the elective share rules and advise on the creation of trusts to provide lifetime benefits for a surviving spouse but protect inheritance for the ultimate benefit of a client's children.
For clients with charitable objectives, we assist with charitable gift planning strategies that direct how their assets and wealth will live on as a legacy and help others far into the future. Tools we employ to achieve this goal may include the following:
- Creation of private foundations
- Charitable lead trusts
- Charitable remainder trusts
- Charitable gift agreements
- Donor-advised funds
Irrevocable Trust Modifications
The term "irrevocable trust" can often be a misnomer, as the law provides several options to modify or even terminate such trusts. This flexibility is important to deal with changes in circumstances and tax laws. Our attorneys help beneficiaries and trustees evaluate the legal options - from decanting, to non-judicial agreements, to court action - and determine the best way to achieve the desired modification or termination.
Estate Administration (Probate)
Following the death of a family member, we guide the survivors through the estate administration process, from the first probate filing to the final asset distribution. This includes advising executors on their duties and powers, preparing court inventories and accountings, and preparing federal estate tax returns. Our experience in handling estate administration helps make this difficult period manageable for the family.
Successful trust administration requires an understanding of the trust instrument as well as North Carolina trust law. Without counsel, serving as trustee can be confusing and stressful. It doesn’t have to be. Our experienced attorneys and paralegals guide and assist trustees in the proper administration and distribution of trust assets. With our guidance, serving as trustee can be uniquely gratifying as you work to fulfill the trust maker’s intentions and legacy.