Among Delaware law firms, few possess the depth of experience and level of sophistication in all aspects of estate planning that has long been the hallmark of our Private Client Services’ trusts and estates counsel. At Morris James, we pride ourselves on developing an estate plan that accomplishes both tax- and non-tax-related objectives for each of our clients. Our success in designing effective estate plans that do not sacrifice practical concerns in application begins with careful listening to identify client goals and needs, and then proceeding to apply the benefit of our broad-based knowledge and experience in efficiently accomplishing those goals.
We are skilled in crafting estate plans that incorporate strategies for lifetime giving within annual exclusion limits and structured wealth transfers during life and at death through the use of limited liability companies, trusts, and other vehicles. Our attorneys counsel clients and advise estate representatives and other fiduciaries and beneficiaries on multi-generational transfer planning, asset protection, general matters of estate and trust administration, federal, state and local estate tax issues, post-mortem planning, and tax-saving strategies.
Our attorneys also take into consideration important non-tax aspects of estate planning. These include practical concerns regarding appointment of fiduciaries, the management of closely-held businesses, real estate and other assets, planning for inter-generational ownership, succession or exit of family businesses, and use of life insurance and employee benefits.
We advise clients regarding probate avoidance in the disposition of assets through the use of Revocable Trusts and utilization of trust planning techniques to attain family and charitable gifting goals, including tax-favored strategies such as Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS), and trusts with charitable gift components.
We routinely counsel financial institutions and individuals on The Delaware Advantage, with its variety of tax-efficient and innovative trust strategies that keep Delaware trust law on the cutting edge. These include judicial and non-judicial modification procedures and termination of existing trusts, decanting, and changing of trust situs. In addition, we provide advice regarding the potential state income tax savings and other advantages available to non-residents of Delaware with the use of Delaware trusts.
Morris James' trusts and estates attorneys assist clients in the administration of complex multi-jurisdictional estates, estates including difficult to value and illiquid assets, and the probate of estates; as well as in trust administration intended to maximize the benefits of the planning that went into it. We represent clients in the Court of Chancery in fiduciary litigation, contested will cases, elective share proceedings, and in other estate and trust disputes.
Delaware's Decanting Statute
Delaware’s “decanting” statute makes it possible to move existing trusts to Delaware in order to take advantage of Delaware’s trust laws and, in many cases, to improve and modernize administrative provisions. We work with trustees and trust beneficiaries to design innovative and practical trust provisions, tailored to client-specific needs, through non-judicial consent when available pursuant to newly enacted statutory authority, and through consent proceedings in the Court of Chancery.
Asset Protection Trusts
Delaware has been a leader in establishing asset protection trusts. In appropriate circumstances, these allow individuals to obtain asset protection benefits previously available only through the use of off-shore trusts dependent on the laws of non-U.S. jurisdictions. Morris James attorneys counsel clients in determining whether asset protection trusts are appropriate, help in developing effective asset protection strategies through the use of trusts and otherwise, and assist in implementing asset protection plans.
Converting Income Only Trusts
Delaware statutes provide a procedure for converting “income only” trusts to the benefits of “total return” investing. Many established trusts provide that the beneficiary will receive the income produced by trust investments – generally limited to dividends and interest. An investment climate in which dividend and interest yields are meager to invest for robust growth unduly penalizes trust beneficiaries who are dependent solely on trust income. We assist trustees and trust beneficiaries in converting these trusts to trusts which generate distributions based on the portfolio’s overall returns, including capital appreciation, in ways that protect the interests of both income and remainder beneficiaries.
Tax Reduction Structures
Delaware’s tax laws make it possible in many cases for trust beneficiaries who do not live in Delaware to reduce or avoid resident-state and local income taxes on income allowed to accumulate in the trust for later distribution. Morris James' attorneys have the expertise in the complexities of state income taxation to advise trustees and beneficiaries on tax reduction structures and to implement tax-savings strategies in appropriate situations.
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