The Trusts and Estates Department of Whitman Breed (and its predecessor firms) has helped clients deal creatively and sensitively with issues of estate planning and settlement since the 19th Century. Recognized as leaders in the field, our lawyers have in some cases represented three generations of the same family in designing tax-effective estate plans, addressing special needs of family members and helping with estate administration.

Although the Firm over its history has drafted thousands of Wills and trusts, our initial step in the process remains the same, acquiring an understanding of each family’s unique personal situation and needs. Based on that information, we advise clients of the potential impact of the state and federal estate, gift, income and generation-skipping tax systems on their plans, and the mitigating steps that can be taken to transmit assets to younger generations at reduced tax cost. Working closely with clients, we structure personally-designed estate plans that emphasize their particular circumstances, rather than trying to squeeze them into a “one size fits all” plan that in some cases may be more complicated than they want or need.

In addition to preparing Wills, the Department, when appropriate, helps clients by putting in place revocable living trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts and other irrevocable trusts to facilitate transfers to children or grandchildren. We create and assist in administering private charitable foundations, charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. When lifetime giving seems a desirable strategy, we facilitate it in a tax-favored way through grantor retained annuity trusts or unitrusts, qualified personal residence trusts, family limited partnerships and other vehicles.

For clients with relatives facing the challenges of aging, we provide advice and assistance in dealing with the web of issues that has come to be described as “Elder Law.” This includes planning for Title XIX eligibility, addressing problems of incapacity and evaluating the pros and cons of assisted living arrangements.

The Department has extensive experience in administering decedents’ estates, serving as counsel to executors and trustees and providing the administrative, tax and accounting support that they need. In a typical estate, our services include the admission of the Will to probate (if necessary) and appointment of the fiduciaries; helping identify and obtain values for the assets of the estate; preparing an inventory and calculating the cash requirements for taxes, expenses and bequests; advising the fiduciaries on the most tax-sensitive approaches to raising any cash that is needed; representing the fiduciaries in the sale of any special assets that require attention (such as real estate or closely-held businesses); preparing and filing all required estate, gift or income tax returns and handling any communications with the tax authorities; and upon completion of administration preparing a final account or the releases from beneficiaries that are needed to relieve the fiduciaries from further responsibility. Our lawyers are known to and trusted by the courts in the areas in which we practice, in part because of our Firm’s history of supporting the courts by providing voluntary assistance to needy residents who face difficult situations.