Miller Johnson's probate and estate planning lawyers counsel individuals, families, and businesses concerning all of the legal aspects of their personal and financial planning. Our clients range from young couples starting families to senior citizens enjoying retirement, from new entrepreneurs to established business owners, from minor children to incapacitated adults, from those with standard planning needs to those with unusual and difficult problems.
Death is an inevitability for all of us. Disability is a possibility for many of us. Taxes affect almost everything we do. We help our clients plan for all of these. As estate planners, we focus on counseling and avoiding problems. In probate and trust administration, we concentrate on solving problems creatively and carrying out our clients' lifetime planning.
During the estate planning process, we identify the client's goals, analyze the client's personal and financial situation, explain options, and implement a course of action by drafting documents and/or retitling assets. Every plan is different, but in planning for death common goals often emerge. For example, we help clients:
- Protect minor children by designating guardians and managing assets through custodianships or trusts
- Preserve governmental benefits for elderly or disabled persons by using discretionary trusts and maximizing exemptions
- Coordinate life insurance and retirement plans with their total estate plan
- Accomplish charitable goals in the most tax advantageous way without jeopardizing family goals
- Minimize, defer, or eliminate death, gift, and income taxes
- Plan for the orderly transition of a family business
- Plan for succession and operation of family cottages and other types of shared vacation property
- Avoid probate by properly titling assets and/or using living trusts
Planning for disability can also be an important part of the estate planning process. Again, situations vary greatly, but common goals include helping clients to:
- Avoid a formal probate court guardianship or conservatorship proceeding in the event of disability by using durable powers of attorney and/or living trusts
- Address concerns about medical treatment decisions in the event of incapacity with durable designations of patient advocate and/or living wills
- Preserve governmental benefits through appropriate Medicaid planning
Miller Johnson's lawyers in the Probate and Estate Planning Practice Group also represent a wide variety of clients in the probate courts across the state. For example, we:
- Administer decedents' estates of all sizes and types
- Handle will contests, claims against estates, and probate disputes
- Represent the parent or the minor in guardianships and conservatorships
- Represent the fiduciary, the incapacitated adult or the concerned family member in guardianships and conservatorships
- Help families adopt children, change names, and solve other legal problems
- Obtain protective orders from the probate court to address specific problems involving minors or incapacitated adults
Tax planning cuts across many areas of estate planning and probate administration. We advise clients about the estate, gift, generation-skipping, and income tax ramifications of their estate planning and probate administration alternatives. We also prepare tax returns, including federal estate and gift tax returns, state death tax computations, federal and state fiduciary income tax returns, and federal, state, and local individual income tax returns.
The tax laws change frequently in ways that affect estate planning. Therefore, we monitor legislative and administrative developments and regularly attend and speak at continuing legal education seminars for estate planners and probate lawyers.