Tax & Estate Planning

A woman signing paper work on her desk.Basic Estate Planning 

In today’s complicated world, having an up-to-date estate plan is not only essential for the security of your family and loved ones but it gives you peace of mind knowing your estate is handled. At a minimum, a good California estate plan will include a Revocable Trust, a Will, a Financial Durable Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, and other supporting documents. If you do not have an estate plan in place, your care and the management of your assets will be subject to default California laws that are unlikely to meet your particular wishes.

As we work with clients to prepare these documents, we will also explore other issues that deserve attention, such as planning for any beneficiaries that have special needs (and may require special or supplemental needs trusts), protecting the assets passing to children from creditors or failed marriages, and determining the most efficient way to designate beneficiaries of your retirement plan accounts and life insurance policies to coordinate with the overall estate plan. Our goal is for our clients and their families to be as prepared as possible.

In helping prepare an estate plan, we don’t limit our thinking to what happens after you’re gone. Instead, we assess whether you may benefit from strategic advice regarding a number of issues now. For instance, we may uncover that you own multiple pieces of rental properties without adequate protection against potential creditor issues or title to insurance policies is being held in a tax inefficient manner. We may see ways to reduce the income or gift taxes you are paying now or a plan to reduce property tax reassessment on real property assets as they pass to your children.

We are experts on retirement plans, IRAs, and employee benefits and can help integrate the tax planning for these assets with your overall estate plan. (For example, a Roth IRA conversion is a very effective estate planning strategy for certain clients.) If you have acquired stock options or other more unique forms of compensation, we are able to assist in planning decisions relating to these types of assets too.

We like challenges. Other professionals often refer their complex cases to us, and we are happy to assist. A few examples include large or unusual estates, blended families, large retirement plan balances that defy traditional estate planning structures, and entity succession planning.

Planning for High-Net-Worth Individuals 

Now, more than ever, high-net worth individuals need help sorting out planning ideas that are the right fit – and those that aren’t. Avoiding estate tax is a key consideration but must be balanced with other planning priorities including increased property or income taxes and unique beneficiary or asset situations.

Here are just a few planning techniques that we explore with these types of clients:

  • Long-term irrevocable trusts to protect assets from estate taxes, divorce, and/or creditors for generations (referred to sometimes as Dynasty Trusts or GST Trusts)

  • Spousal lifetime access trusts (referred to as SLATs)

  • Irrevocable life insurance trusts (referred to as ILITs)

  • Limited partnerships or family limited partnerships (referred to as LPs or FLPs, respectively), S corporations, limited liability companies (referred to as LLCs), and other entity structures

  • Grantor retained annuity trusts (referred to as GRATs)

  • Intentionally defective grantor trusts (referred to sometimes as Grantor Trusts or IDGTs)

  • Qualified personal residence trusts (referred to as QPRTs)

We regularly prepare and file gift tax returns for clients engaging in the creation, funding, and ongoing transactions with these planning techniques and other gift or sale transactions that require reporting to the IRS.

We work with clients and their advisors to design and implement these types of planning techniques with California or non-California trusts.

California Real Property and Property Tax

We have expertise where real property and California property taxes are concerned. We design and implement plans with complex real estate structures and help families preserve real estate portfolios in a tax efficient manner. Further, we assist families in preserving cherished family and vacation homes so that the next generations can continue to enjoy them, whether that be as a continued residence or vacation home utilized by the family or co-owned rental properties.

Charitable Planning

We represent both donors and charitable organizations. We have seen how charitable giving can bring a family together and invite younger family members to learn about the process. Here are a few ways we might be able to help:

  • Establishing or helping to maintain private foundations, donor advised funds (also known as DAFs), charitable lead trusts (or CLTs), and charitable remainder trusts (or CRTs)

  • Negotiating gift or pledge agreements to ensure donor intentions are honored for large or legacy gifts

  • Assisting with operations or special projects for existing non-profit organizations

Beacon Team