The Cowles and Thompson Estate Planning practice assists clients in the management and disposition of wealth and assets – during life and at death, including the potential impact of taxes. Our attorneys use wills, trusts, limited partnerships, corporations, estate tax planning, and other mechanisms — coupled with sensitivity while advising clients regarding their plans, wishes for their loved ones, and benefits intended for charitable institutions. Our clients include individuals and corporate entities in a myriad of roles such as executors, administrators, trustees, attorneys in fact, grantors, and donors.
Our attorneys work as a team with accountants, life insurance agents, investment advisors, and other professionals to develop an overall plan to achieve objectives — financial and otherwise – while remaining sensitive to emotional needs. We are particularly aware of the need to maintain our client’s privacy and confidentiality.
Estate Planning, Wills, and Trusts
We help clients plan for the disposition of their estates after death and for the perpetuation of family businesses. This involves the laws of wills, trusts, probate, property, marriage, and state and federal taxation. The preparation of documents may involve provisions to preserve as much flexibility as possible, and to provide opportunity for later tax planning by use of devices like QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Property) elections and disclaimers of interests in property. In addition to wills and revocable living trusts, we prepare documents such as irrevocable life insurance trusts, personal residence trusts, and charitable remainder trusts to carry out lifetime estate planning objectives. Optimal tax planning may also involve the rearrangement of ownership of property within a family unit, by gift or otherwise.
Our Estate Planning attorneys assist clients in developing plans for the management and use of assets during their lifetimes. This includes advice regarding legal and tax aspects of joint ownership of property, formation of family limited partnerships, and limited liability companies for the management of property and for lifetime transfers to family members. In addition, we work with clients in planning for the contingency of disability through
- living wills and advance directives for healthcare,
- durable powers of attorney, and revocable living trusts,
- the desirability of making gifts, and
- the general effect of gift and estate tax laws on how assets are managed and structured in estate plans.
Settlement of Estates and Probate Litigation
We represent personal representatives in probating and settling estates. This includes preparing and filing pleadings and other documents in the appropriate probate court, marshaling estate assets, preparing an inventory of estate assets, settling claims, preparing and reviewing accountings, interpreting wills (including allocation of assets to marital dispositions), and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
Trusts and Trust Administration
Cowles and Thompson prepares all types of trusts including living trusts, tax planning trusts, asset protection trusts, life insurance trusts, special needs trusts, and gift trusts. We also aid in the funding and administration of such trusts. Many trusts we represent involve multiple beneficiaries, multiple trustees, and on-going businesses held by the trusts. In corporate trustee matters, our Estate Planning attorneys are often engaged in trust document interpretation as well as assuring compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.