My practice focuses on estate planning, and all of the sub-specialties this implies. Our work for clients encompasses the preparation of all types of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, health care designations, and other documents required to properly care for both individuals and families. Much of my work in estate planning encompasses advanced planning designed to preserve wealth for future generations.

Estate Planning

Developing a timely prepared and comprehensive estate plan is one of the most important tasks an individual or family can undertake to assure themselves and their families that a financial legacy earned will be protected and passed efficiently to future generations. A plan should encompass both the realities of unexpected incapacity and death.

Quality estate plans are built with experience and careful consideration given to asset structure, valuation, and beneficiary needs. In some cases, Federal Estate Taxes and Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes can add an additional layer of complexity to the planning process. Second marriages, real estate, business interests, and the onset of long-term illness can add to the intricacy of the planning process. Based on our thoughtful discussions, tools like revocable (living) trusts, wills, and specific types of irrevocable trusts are designed by us to coincide with your assets and the future needs and capabilities of beneficiaries. Every type of will and trust has advantages and short comings. I will take the time to hear your concerns and share my views on these important issues as it relates to your specific situation.

Planning for incapacity is equally important. Tools like durable powers of attorney, living wills, and health care surrogate designations, among others, address some of the most important planning matters facing most individuals. Having the appropriately prepared tools in place in a timely manner can avoid many potential problems (including costly court-supervised guardianships) if sudden and severe illness creates circumstances where an individual can no longer care for their physical and financial well-being.

My two decades plus of experience as an estate planner in Florida and your knowledge of your desires and family needs will allow us to work cooperatively to create an estate and incapacity plan that is tailored to your specific situation. Experience has shown us over the years that a sense of peace about the future can be found when a comprehensive plan is in place. The work can be completed expediently and at a fair and expected price. We endeavor to accomplish the tasks given us with attention to these important principles.

Probate Estate and Trust Administration

When death occurs, it is sometimes necessary to probate an estate or administer a trust. The duties imposed on a personal representative (executor) and trustee by statute and via common law are comprehensive and encompass dealing with decedent’s creditors, preparing an inventory of assets, selling real estate and other assets, protecting and investing assets, and filing a variety of probate court and IRS forms. Other fiduciary duties can include post death tax planning, beneficiary communication and education, asset distribution, and in some situations terminating or modifying undesirable trusts.

All fiduciaries, including personal representatives, executors, and trustees, have a duty to prepare accountings for review by the court and beneficiaries. In some cases, the review of those accountings by contentious beneficiaries can lead to litigation. Properly preparing or reviewing trust accountings and timely filing properly prepared court filings can minimize or avoid the risk of disputes in many situations.

In some situations, beneficiaries or creditors require advice and guidance regarding their rights during a probate proceeding or a trust administration. Attention to detail in reviewing court filings and accountings that impact the rights of beneficiaries are critical to making sure that beneficiaries receive their lawful share of estates and trusts.

I have over two decades of estate and trust administration experience. During my career I have also spent six years as an appointed representative on the Florida Bar’s Probate Rules Committee. That experience is buttressed by the work I did early in my career as a senior trust officer with a national bank. Understanding the complexities of the fiduciary requirements of probate estates and trusts, and managing the expense associated with these undertakings, are key hallmarks of the service we deliver.

Tax

Federal Gift and Estate Tax planning is (and planning for the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax) often, by necessity, a critical companion in developing a comprehensive estate plan. We are experienced in analyzing assets and their values for tax reporting purposes and working with our clients in determining how assets can be transferred to beneficiaries during life and at death in a tax efficient manner. A broad range of trusts designed to meet both beneficiary needs and tax planning objectives can be considered for implementation as part of a tax-driven estate plan including Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts, and a broad range of other tax planning vehicles.

Estate and Gift Tax planning can require the preparation and filing of tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. Our firm has experience with the preparation and review of IRS Forms 709 Gift Tax and 706 Estate Tax returns. That experience includes dealing with the IRS in filing the returns and on audit. We also collaborate frequently with our client’s CPA when the family or we determine that a tax return can be prepared most efficiently by the accounting firm.

Tax efficient gifts and bequests to beneficiaries and trusts are an important part of building a comprehensive estate plan. Our experience developing these strategies and interfacing with the Internal Revenue Service spans over two decades and always encompasses our assessment of the reward and risk associated with a broad range of tax planning techniques we discuss with clients.

Litigation

Disputes involving the administration of a probate estate or a trust have become increasingly common. The fiduciary duties imposed by statute and common law place significant burdens on personal representatives (executors) and trustees to gather assets, to identify and properly address creditor claims, safeguard and invest the assets under their control, provide fiduciary accountings to beneficiaries, pay the proper taxes, and distribute assets to the beneficiaries in a timely manner. Interwoven among these duties are real estate issues, volatile investment markets, and resentful beneficiaries, each of which raise the stakes significantly for both a fiduciary and a beneficiary.

Litigation cases involving wills and trusts can also involve allegations regarding the validity of a will or trust due to a lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence of the individual when he or she signed the instrument, or can simply revolve around an unclear, inadequate, or untimely estate or trust accounting. Trust terminations, trustee or personal representative removal, curator appointments, trust situs change, will and trust judicial interpretations, and trust modifications are becoming increasingly common in the litigation arena. In short, the duties of a fiduciary are detailed and complex, and the beneficiaries have significant rights. My twenty years plus experience both as a practicing attorney and also a trust officer addressing the rights and duties of personal representatives, trustees (including many corporate trustees), beneficiaries, and creditors filing claims in estates equip me and my firm to efficiently and intelligently advise you regarding the merits of litigation and its potential resolution in court or through a thoughtful and carefully crafted settlement.

Mediation

The mediation of estate and trust litigation has become one of the most important tools available to fiduciaries and beneficiaries to resolve their cases before a large portion of the value of the estate or trust is consumed by attorneys through the costs of litigation. Depositions, document productions, and court hearings are expensive. Through mediation, the clients of the respective attorneys involved in a dispute can place themselves in a position of control by having an opportunity to resolve the dispute before the attorney’s fees and costs grow even larger. In the opening portion of the mediation, as a mediator, I refer to that opportunity as “self determination.” The opportunity to take control of the case, the expenses, and the outcome and place it in the hands of the client.

I have been Florida Supreme Court certified Circuit Court Mediator for over ten years. My objective in mediating cases is to bring my two decades of experience as a trusts and estates attorney and a trust officer to the mediation process with the hope of having the clients seize and consider a meaningful opportunity to settle their case, rather than continue to bear the expense associated with litigation. For this work, I offer a reduced hourly rate and a limited additional charge for travel only when it extends beyond the Tampa Bay area.