Estate/Contingency Planning

Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP is highly experienced in implementing effective estate/contingency plans, using tools such as revocable living trusts, pour-over wills, and durable powers of attorney. We’re often commended for our ability to communicate complex plans in a manner that clients can easily comprehend.

Our planning begins by clearly defining your economic and non-economic objectives, understanding key family dynamics, and identifying the nature of your property. We commonly help address who will make important decisions—such as medical or financial decisions—if family members become unable to do so for themselves. We also specify who will act on behalf of your children or elderly loved ones should they lack proper decision-making capacity.

In all cases, our thoughtful contingency planning takes into account special circumstances such as blended families, same-sex marriages, non-U.S. family members, and unique and hard-to-value assets.

Our firm performs a number of planning services to minimize the family and financial risks associated with a client’s disability or death. A contingency plan commonly includes some or all of the following:
  • Analyzing your net worth, title to assets, and liabilities or items encumbering or restricting your assets

  • Drafting revocable living trusts and pour-over wills to minimize the expense of estate administration, maintain privacy, and eliminate probate and other court involvement

  • Preparing advance health care directives and powers of attorney for assets

  • Incorporating retirement accounts into the plan and assisting in the designation of beneficiaries

  • Reviewing hard-to-value assets, including cash-flow considerations upon disability or death

  • Drafting pre- and post-nuptial agreements and property transmutation agreements

  • Reviewing and incorporating other contractual agreements into your overall contingency plan

  • Providing a tangible summary of your contingency plan

  • Working with insurance professionals to evaluate the appropriate use of life insurance, which can provide liquidity to care for your family, as well as help to pay off debt and estate taxes

  • Discussing the benefits of a special needs trust or other planning vehicle for family members suffering from a long-term disability or substance abuse problems

Family Wealth Planning

Family wealth planning is the cornerstone for effective wealth preservation. At Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP, we can assist with your lifetime wealth planning, helping to manage, preserve, and transfer your assets—whether an active business or passive investments—with an emphasis on multigenerational benefits.

We are experienced in advising heirs and helping them to develop life skills such as sound financial management. This can be especially challenging when wealth preservation spans generations, often requiring the effective use of entities such as corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), charitable trusts, and private foundations. We have extensive experience in forming, documenting, and if necessary, defending these entities.

A strength of our firm is ensuring that your family’s wealth is protected not only against unnecessary tax liabilities, but also against divorce, family disputes, third-party creditors, and other threats.

Family wealth planning calls for customized yet practical planning, that accounts for future growth potential and wealth management succession issues. This practice area often includes the following:
  • Participating with other advisors to analyze business and investment opportunities and to identify the optimal assets and timing for efficient wealth transfer strategies. To be clear, we are not investment advisors and do not provide investment advice. However, we will work with your other advisors to ensure that your overall wealth plan operates efficiently.

  • Recommending appropriate legal entities for each situation

  • Forming the chosen entity, including, but not limited to: C and S corporations, partnerships, and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
  • Preserving control through the use of entities, segregating capital assets from operational assets, utilizing voting and non-voting equity interests, and establishing management succession plans

  • Forming and funding special trusts, such as grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs), irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), long-term dynasty trusts to benefit younger generations, and various charitable trusts, such as charitable remainder trusts (CRTs), charitable lead annuity trusts (CLATs), and private foundations

  • Valuation planning with respect to unique assets

Business Planning and Management Succession

Our firm commonly advises clients with closely held businesses. You may plan to sell your business, pass it down to the next generation, or merely want to preserve options for the future. Whatever your wishes, we can provide solutions for equity and management succession, which will guide you in growing your business in a tax-effective manner.

We have experience working with business managers, key employees, entrepreneurs, and early investors in structuring equity and succession plans, and incorporating various buy-sell agreements and deferred compensation arrangements in ways that will benefit you and your family, now and in the future.

Business planning commonly involves the following areas:

  • Developing and restructuring legal entities to achieve your desired results

  • Analyzing alternatives for key employees including employment agreements, buy-sell agreements, non-qualified deferred compensation agreements, and various insured and non-insured fringe benefits

  • Reviewing liability exposures to the family business, and minimizing the associated risk through the use of limited liability entities, and with the assistance of insurance professionals, appropriate insurance coverage

  • Developing plans to shift business equity within the family or to non-family key employees, with an eye toward management succession

  • Representing clients in mergers and acquisitions, including the purchase of other business enterprises

  • Working with appraisers to advise clients on business valuation

  • Providing advice on structuring and negotiating transfers and tax impacts of a sale or merger

  • In collaboration with insurance professionals, reviewing business entity life insurance programs, including key person life insurance, split-dollar insurance, and buy-sell agreement funding insurance

  • Crafting tenants-in-common agreements for owners of fractional interests in real property

Trust and Estate Administration

Effective trust and estate administration ensures that an estate/contingency plan performs as intended. Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP has extensive experience representing trustees, executors, and beneficiaries in connection with estate administrations of any size.

We frequently deal with individual, institutional, and private fiduciaries to assist in meeting fiduciary responsibilities to beneficiaries. In addition, our firm can prepare gift and estate tax returns or work closely with your CPA to produce the required forms. When appropriate, we can secure judicial relief to ensure that the decedent’s intended wishes are carried out.

Trust administration often includes the following services:

  • Helping trustees and beneficiaries understand the provisions of a will or trust, analyzing various tax issues, interpreting applicable state law, and then communicating how these concepts affect your family

  • Assisting trustees and estate administrators with meeting their fiduciary duties in order to avoid costly legal disputes

  • Working with your other advisors, including accountants, financial planners, insurance professionals, and appraisers, to facilitate the transition of value and control during the administration process
  • Selecting and working with appraisers to comply with applicable tax, trust, and estate laws

  • Forecasting cash flow during the period of administration in order to balance the needs of the fiduciary with those of the beneficiary

  • Petitioning local courts for necessary relief, such as modifying or interpreting trust terms, approving accountings, seeking instructions to sell or dispose of assets, and more

  • Assisting in the collection of life insurance proceeds

  • Effecting the transfer of interests in business and real property, including managing associated real property tax issues


Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution

During the administration process, disputes may arise between and amongst estate administrators and beneficiaries. Our firm commonly helps resolve family disputes through both formal and informal mediation. Our focus on alternative dispute resolution, which aims to avoid costly litigation in the courts, helps to resolve client matters in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

Trust and estate dispute resolution often includes the following services:

  • Resolving disputes among beneficiaries, either informally or by serving as a mediator in formal mediation proceedings
  • Mediating disputes involving family businesses, contested trust administrations, and other matters where parties desire to avoid litigation

Tax Controversy and Litigation

Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP has a decades-long history of successfully representing clients in tax audits, appeals, controversies, and litigation with both federal and state taxing authorities.

Our approach to communication with the Internal Revenue Service often lends itself to a cooperative, cost-effective resolution of tax controversy matters. When negotiated resolution is not possible, Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP has the experience to litigate before the U.S. Tax Court or other appropriate federal court. Our firm has historically focused on complex estate and gift tax controversies involving family limited partnerships, valuation issues, and the multifaceted implications of trusts and other legal entities. However, our firm also represents clients in connection with income and property tax matters.

Tax controversy and litigation may include assistance in the following areas:

  • Developing tax issues, facts, and documents relevant to the case, including all procedural facets of the matter

  • Filing administrative protests with the relevant taxing authorities

  • Representing clients before IRS Examination and Appeals

  • Where litigation is required, preparing pretrial discovery, post-trial briefs, and other filings with the court

  • Representing taxpayers on appeal, if necessary

  • Securing expert testimony and reports to develop persuasive and defensible support for the client’s position

  • Managing IRS collections, which may include preparing requests for abatement, seeking waiver of penalties, and securing IRS payment plans

  • Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain valuable information in building a client’s case

Special Counsel

Ramsbacher Prokey Leonard LLP acts as special counsel to a variety of different clients and their advisors, customizing services to unique situations or special aspects of a larger project. We are often retained by other attorneys, and work as a team to ensure our clients receive comprehensive and competent advice. Our multifaceted experience with trusts, taxation, real estate, probate, and business/contingency planning makes us well suited to applying specific technical skills to discrete issues. In addition, this breadth of experience allows us to identify and manage issues within the context of the long-term, big picture. We have a proven record of crafting creative solutions to intractable problems, working in collaboration with other advisors and opposing counsel.

Examples of our special counsel services include:

  • Advising accountants and attorneys on how to more effectively represent their own clients in tax controversy matters, estate planning involving technical tax issues, and wealth planning involving complex wealth succession issues

  • Assisting trial counsel in litigation matters involving embedded tax issues  

  • Reviewing other attorneys’ documents and advising on strategy in connection with their own litigation and planning matters

  • Serving as a special or “independent” trustee for various types of irrevocable trusts

  • Serving as expert witnesses in areas of our core competence

  • Assisting family law attorneys in restructuring existing contingency and/or business plans for divorcing couples