Comprehensive estate planning advice often involves far more than basic documents such as a will, a revocable (or living) trust, a financial power of attorney and a power of attorney or directive for health care. Our estate planning group provides strategic planning services tailored to individual wishes and objectives.

Crafting the Plan

The starting point for effective estate planning is understanding each client's family situation, assets and goals. To this end, our estate planning counselors begin by building the client relationship immediately and exploring the client's intentions with him or her. We work with the clients and their other advisors to obtain information about family assets and any existing estate planning documents. We can accommodate any mode of communication that best suits a client's needs and schedules.

We then work closely with clients to create and implement an estate plan that accomplishes the client's wishes, including minimizing taxes and carrying out the client's financial, family, business and personal goals. Planning solutions might include:

  • Lifetime giving, including leveraged gifting techniques, family partnerships and life insurance planning
  • Restructuring existing trusts
  • Business succession planning and restructuring
  • Charitable planning
  • Elder law and special needs planning

Safeguarding Assets

Our group is adept at creating legal and enforceable asset protection programs for clients. These include domestic entities, such as asset protection trusts, as well as offshore entities. We routinely advise clients on the role of trusts in providing enhanced asset protection for their families. Familiar with a broad range of asset protection techniques, we are able to advise clients on those which best address a client's unique circumstances. For certain clients, simple changes in asset titling can achieve their goals. In other situations, more complex structures are required. When appropriate, we can recommend onshore financial institutions in states that have enacted asset protection trust legislation, as well as offshore institutions.

Meeting International Planning Needs

When a client's circumstances extend beyond the U.S. border, we provide counsel on the interaction between U.S. law and the law of the foreign jurisdictions. We advise non-resident individuals and corporations regarding the U.S. tax consequences of U.S. corporate and real estate investments, as well as on tax planning opportunities that often are available only prior to becoming a U.S. resident or citizen. Conversely, we represent U.S. individuals and corporations in connection with the U.S. and foreign tax consequences of their foreign investments, residence and operations. Our team works closely with advisors in other countries to facilitate planning in multiple jurisdictions. Through our extensive work with clients who have international relationships, we have developed a network of foreign advisers familiar with local tax rules in many jurisdictions. This network allows us to handle the full spectrum of international planning situations thoroughly and efficiently.

Building Lasting Client Relationships

Our large Private Client, Trusts and Estates Group includes attorneys who are licensed to practice in many U.S. state jurisdictions including New York, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii and Illinois, to name just a few.

The group is supported by Schiff Hardin's robust array of practices that a comprehensive estate planning process often requires, including, Private Companies, Real Estate, Intellectual Property, Finance, Employee Benefits, and Tax.

Our clients include entrepreneurs, corporate executives, investment fund managers, owners of privately held businesses, multi-generational families, surviving spouses, public and private foundations, and corporate and individual executors and trustees.

Typically, each client works with a team of at least two attorneys in the group, one senior and one junior. This ensures efficiency and continuity for our estate planning relationship, which typically spans decades and generations. Our clients take comfort from a team approach that anticipates our evolving, long-term relationship.