Trusts & Estates

Wealth and Wisdom

Benjamin Franklin’s astute observation that “in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes” is as true today as ever. Fortunately, advances in the tools and techniques of estate planning in the decades since those famous words were spoken have enabled sophisticated tax or legal counsel to mitigate their effects.

Blank Rome’s highly regarded trusts and estates practice represents clients in all aspects of estate and business planning, estate and trust administration, and estate and tax litigation. Our clients include entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 executives, professionals, other high-net-worth individuals, and both traditional and nontraditional families.

Estate Planning

Our practice extends well beyond the preparation of traditional wills and trusts. We view ourselves as “family business advisers” whose collaboration with our clients’ accountants, investment advisers, financial planners, and life insurance professionals enables us to tailor the most appropriate and tax-effective plan for asset management, business succession planning, and the transmission of wealth to subsequent generations. Blank Rome advises clients in all aspects of their estate planning, including: individual and business tax matters, choice of business entity, business succession planning, intellectual property issues, family law issues (including pre- and post-nuptial agreements and estate and gift tax consequences of proposed divorce settlements); retirement benefit planning, insurance, and real estate issues.  We employ the appropriate estate and business planning tools for our clients, which include:

  • revocable living trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, dynasty trusts, and asset protection trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (“QPRTs”)
  • Grantor-Retained Annuity Trusts and Unitrusts (“GRATs” and “GRUTS”)
  • Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (“IDGTs”)
  • charitable trusts
  • creation of family limited partnerships and limited liability companies
  • buy-sell, employment, deferred compensation, and stock-bonus agreements
  • planning with life insurance, including life settlements and premium financing

In addition to the sophisticated tax aspects of estate planning, our attorneys assist clients in fulfilling their non-tax incentives to estate planning and wealth preservation, such as liability concerns, centralized management of assets, and continuity in transfer of assets, especially in jurisdictions with stringent probate formalities, and creation of trusts for unmarried couples.

Trust and Estate Administration

Our team of experienced attorneys and paralegals works closely with executors, trustees, and beneficiaries to provide a smooth and orderly administration of trusts and estates. We assist clients in the probate of wills and administration of estates and trusts, focusing on appropriate tax strategies in carrying out a decedent’s or other donor’s intentions for preservation of assets and transmission of wealth to subsequent generations.

Blank Rome also protects the interests of beneficiaries to ensure maximization of the bequests made on their behalf. Our services cover:

  • preparation and filing of all court documents for probate of a will and appointments of administrators
  • collection and valuation of assets
  • use of disclaimers and other post-mortem tax planning devices
  • tax elections and allocations
  • preparation of estate and fiduciary income tax returns
  • preparation of executor and trustee accountings
  • miscellaneous proceedings in the Probate and Surrogate’s Courts
  • distribution of estate and trust assets to beneficiaries
  • audit examinations of estate and gift tax returns by the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities

Trust and Estate Litigation

Blank Rome attorneys handle complex estate-related litigation in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Florida before the Registers of Wills; the Surrogates’ and Probate Courts; the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Divisions of the Courts of Common Pleas; the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division; and the Florida Circuit Court, as well as before the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Tax Court, and state departments of revenue.

Litigation with regard to trusts and estates continues to grow as individuals live longer and as new laws are passed requiring fiduciaries to make more complex decisions which may be challenged. Estate litigation involves much more than the high-profile “probate contests” which are tried before a jury.  Blank Rome has advised hundreds of clients on the many issues that arise in estate-related matters, including:

  • objections to the accounting of an estate
  • spousal “right of election”
  • interpretation or “construction” of a will or a trust
  • change in the use of investment of the assets or a dispute as to the application of funds
  • title and right to property shared by unmarried individuals
  • complex legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage and civil statutes that accord marital rights, including common-law marriages
  • removal of fiduciaries from office

Experienced Attorneys, Recognized in Their Fields

Several Blank Rome attorneys are fellows of the prestigious American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). The group’s attorneys have written articles for many publications including the New York Law Journal, the Practical Tax Lawyer, Taxation for Accountants, and the Journal of the American Society of CLU and CLFC. Several attorneys have made television appearances and have been quoted in publications including TIME and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance on tax and estate planning issues. Our attorneys lecture to attorney and non-attorney audiences on a regular basis and serve as adjunct professors at various law schools.