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tax and trusts & estates

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estate planning

Our attorneys have expertise in all aspects of creative estate planning, as well as the details of post-death planning and administration with special emphasis on:

  • Customized gift and estate planning for high-net-worth individuals

  • Representation of fiduciaries and beneficiaries in disputed estate and trust administration matters

In our estate planning practice, we prepare all documents including:

  • Wills, living trusts, powers of attorney and irrevocable trusts

  • Family limited partnerships and other vehicles to transfer wealth efficiently

In doing so, we pride ourselves on tailoring our estate planning services so that each client’s estate plan is customized to fit that client’s wealth, asset mix, family situation and planning goals.

For our clients with larger estates, we have developed planning approaches for specific assets including:

  • Retirement plans

  • Art collections

  • Copyrights

We also assist with the preparation of gift tax returns to report the tax consequences of the lifetime gift planning we structure.

trust and estate administration

Our practice group also counsels executors, administrators, trustees, guardians and conservators in matters of estate, trust, guardianship and conservatorship administration. These matters require the necessary attention to detail throughout the administration process, ranging from identification and valuation of assets, transferring title to those assets, and making distributions to beneficiaries of estates and trusts. Since one of the principal duties of a fiduciary during post-mortem administration is compliance, we also prepare, or assist in the preparation of, estate tax returns. We also counsel the fiduciary through the estate tax (or gift tax) audit process.

trust and estate litigation

Our team of experienced trusts and estates litigation attorneys represent individuals, banks and trust companies, private professional fiduciaries, charitable organizations and educational institutions in a broad range of trust, estate, conservatorship and guardianship disputes and proceedings in probate courts throughout California.

Combining extensive knowledge of the underlying substantive law and an acute understanding of the procedural nuances involved, our attorneys have successfully represented clients in a diverse range of disputes or contested actions, including probate proceedings, fiduciary accounting proceedings, proceedings for the discovery and turnover of estate or trust assets, as well as matters involving alleged breaches of fiduciary duties and responsibilities, reformation of testamentary instruments, investment performance, and contests of wills and trusts involving allegations of undue influence, fraud, duress, lack of due execution, lack of capacity, and coercion.

Our attorneys approach all disputed trust, estate, conservatorship and guardianship matters cognizant of the complex income, estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax ramifications and consequences, as well as the sensitive issues that arise and the emotional, psychological and interpersonal tolls that often result from such disputes. Where appropriate, we leverage our track record of success in the courtroom in furtherance of efforts to achieve favorable settlements of disputes outside of the courtroom. In addition, our seasoned trial lawyers counsel fiduciaries on ways to avoid litigation and advise our clients on litigation prevention techniques.

tax planning for trusts and estates

Our tax department represents high-net-worth individuals and their closely held companies in all aspects of creative estate planning, post-death planning, trust and estate administration, and related trust and estate litigation.

tax controversy & litigation

We assist clients in a wide variety of federal, state and local tax controversies relating to income tax, estate and gift taxes, sales and use taxes, gross receipts taxes and property taxes. We represent both domestic and foreign clients in complex tax audits and examinations by the Internal Revenue Service, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Employment Development Department, the California State Board of Equalization, and other state and local taxing authorities. Our attorneys include a former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and an Attorney (Estate Tax) with the Internal Revenue Service.

  • Negotiating with auditors and appellate officers to minimize tax liabilities.

  • Litigating disputes, including in the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Federal District Courts and before administrative and state law agencies, all in an expeditious and cost-effective manner.

  • Resolution of property tax disputes with the California State Board of Equalization and local County Assessors, and representation of clients at hearings before administrative boards in the resolution of property tax disputes.

  • Sophisticated sales and use tax disputes with the California State Board of Equalization and other State agencies for clients domiciled both within and outside of California.

  • Negotiating numerous employment tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, the California Employment Development Department, and other State agencies. Special expertise in controversies involving whether an employer has properly classified one or more of its workers as an employee or an independent contractor.

Spotlight

You’ve worked for years to accumulate wealth. You’ve taken risks that reaped rewards. You’ve spent decades building your business. Or perhaps you’ve come into newly found wealth due to the death of a loved one. Without an appropriately thought out and well documented estate plan, your desire for how you want what you’ve amassed managed after your incapacity or upon your death can quickly fall apart or lead to disputes. Blended families, undesignated beneficiaries, irresponsible siblings, unscrupulous caregivers, unsigned documents, former spouses listed as life insurance or retirement plan beneficiaries . . . the list of nightmare stories starts with any of these scenarios.

Sophisticated tax and estate planning requires a blend of thoughtfulness, a thorough understanding of the complexities of the law, and an ability to anticipate unforeseen life scenarios. From the largest estates with generational considerations, business succession planning dependencies, and complex assets, to the issues facing young families, prudently managing tax burdens and ownership rights is accomplished with an estate plan.

In addition, when individuals find themselves as either beneficiaries of an estate or fiduciaries (executors/trustees) of the estates of others they often need guidance in ensuring that they receive what they were intended to receive or, in the case of fiduciaries, that they get prudent counsel in carrying out the burden of caring for someone else’s assets. And if trouble starts, getting the timely support of an experienced team of trusts and estates litigators is crucial.

From basic issues of probate avoidance to the complexities of tax efficiencies to the legacy building actions of business and charitable planning, having a tailor-made and well thought through estate plan can ease the minds of your loved ones during difficult times. Structuring your estate is the most responsible thing you can do for those you love. With extensive expertise managing and litigating large and complicated estates over decades for some of the largest names in Southern California, MSK has developed an ability during the planning stages to anticipate the less-than obvious issues that can arise in assuring your intentions are followed.

Providing sophisticated tax advice as part of an estate plan or in connection with transactional matters for a business, MSK works diligently between its tax lawyers and estate experts to optimize the structure for any scenario. Read our blog.

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