Our Trusts and Estates practice group focuses on a broad range of personal services directed to DLA Piper's individual and business clients, including personal and closely held business planning, estate and trust administration and issues arising from the repeal and reinstatement of estate tax. 

Personal and closely held business planning 

Personal planning services include traditional estate planning and estate and trust administration, all related aspects of estate, gift and income tax, and trust construction and related litigation. This area emphasizes wealth enhancement and transfer for individuals and business succession planning for closely held businesses. Representing our clients often involves coordinating corporate activities and ownership with estate and financial planning for management and principal stockholders. We use our business acumen, legal experience and problem-solving abilities to design a plan that meets your objectives. Our approach to estate planning includes a thorough review of your lifetime and testamentary planning needs. Typically, a client will need comprehensive, goal-oriented analysis, as well as traditional estate planning and income-shifting vehicles. Where appropriate, we recommend and execute the most sophisticated techniques to reduce transfer and income taxes. GRATs, CRUTs and QPRTs are used by estate planners every day, but applying the appropriate technique to the right client situation is a function of experience and judgment that we have developed over many years. In addition to representing clients on an individual basis, we are involved in the delivery of planning services at senior- and middle-management levels for many of DLA Piper's publicly owned corporate clients. This service has become an important part of our practice and offers employers the opportunity to assist employees in personal planning. A group's common financial background allows prompt, cost-effective planning not only for more highly compensated employees but also for valuable younger employees whose planning needs are often as acute. Our practice is proactive. We recognize that you cannot be expected to know the most current estate-planning techniques and we do not hesitate to present you with ideas that may be helpful to further your goals. 

Estate and trust administration 

Estate administration is a principal part of our practice. We regularly provide the full range of legal administrative services to individual and corporate fiduciaries. Our philosophy is that assets of an estate belong to the beneficiaries and the job of the fiduciary is to comply with all legal requirements and distribute the assets as promptly as possible. We do everything possible to facilitate trust and estate settlements, assisted by highly trained legal assistants who meet clients' needs economically and efficiently. In addition to estate administration, we regularly administer trusts for our clients, offering a full range of tax preparation, asset custody, and accounting services for individuals acting as fiduciaries. Partners of DLA Piper also will act as personal representatives (executors) and trustees. These partners offer years of experience and objectivity to families in meeting their fiduciary needs. We have strong relationships with a number of local and regional banking and investment advisory firms. Members of our group have litigated a broad range of tax issues and cases involving trust, will or other document construction. 

Issues arising from the repeal and reinstatement of estate tax 

In 2009 Congress did not pass legislation extending rules regarding estate tax, generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT) and gift tax. Thus, for 2010, both the estate tax and GSTT are repealed. However, in 2011, both estate tax and GSTT return, with lower exemption amounts and higher tax rates than those in effect in 2009. Furthermore, while the estate tax and GSTT tax are repealed for 2010, the gift tax remains in place. Estate plans containing formula language, in this period of change, also may be of concern. In this shifting landscape, we assist clients who are considering a review of their estate plan.