for help in a wide range of problems and issues. Although we are widely known for estate planning, our practice and our capabilities are broader than that and encompass a range of matters which relate generally to taxation and to trusts and estates, and to planning for closely-held businesses.
that their affairs are relatively “standard” and that all they need is a “simple” will. Similarly, many business owners think that their issues are susceptible to an easy fix. Sometimes this is the case. However, many individuals discover that there is at least one aspect of their situation that is somehow out of the ordinary. We believe that it is essential to help our clients spot each individual’s unique issues and find develop effective solutions to those issues.
at Brier & Geurden, there is no single “representative” kind of client or case for us. Some situations and clients call for a relatively straightforward approach, along relatively well-traveled paths, while others benefit from a higher degree of customization and creativity. Much of what we do depends as much on a thorough uncovering of facts as on clever thinking; and we are experienced in the patient disentangling of the sometimes untidy situations that attend all human affairs.
find the following summaries of some of our interesting recent cases to provide a better understanding of our experience and capabilities:
Kenneth P. Brier:
- Structured a pre-IPO installment sale of a high-tech founder’s stock to a nontaxable family corporation located offshore, with the price locked in by means of a forward option, providing the opportunity to avoid tax on millions of dollars of gain accruing after the IPO.
- Successively negotiated a resolution of a gift tax audit involving the valuation of multiyear gifts of family limited partnership interests, securing a valuation discount of 35% from the IRS Appeals office (as contrasted with 19% offered by the IRS agent), representing a difference of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.
- Counseled surviving wife on alternatives for distributions from husband’s $4 million profit-sharing plan account, comparing projected income and estate tax consequences of lump-sum distribution (partially taxed at old 20% capital gain rate), rollover to IRA and rollover to Roth IRA, taking into account children’s likely cash needs and family’s preferences for ongoing simplicity.
- Straightened out the administration of family trust several years after death of the grantor’s surviving wife, where (1) wife as husband’s executrix had transferred husband’s S corporation shares to a nominee trust upon husband’s death 12 years earlier (but prior to the liquidation of the corporation) with the estate as the beneficial owner, (2) wife as an individual had transferred family vacation home to same nominee trust, (3) family trust had never been appropriately divided into marital and family subtrusts, (4) wife’s estate had never been administered at all, and (5) one child purportedly had executed an ill-advised disclaimer of interest in family trust (which would have triggered a taxable gift); matters attended to included attention to estate and generation-skipping tax issues, probate of wife’s estate, division of trust into separate trusts for adult children, appointments of new trustees, and sale of interests in family vacation home among sometimes contentious children.
- Structured trust as a vehicle for a large corporation to voluntarily provide benefits to the widow of deceased executive by transferring company stock to the trust prior to the company’s going public.
- “Created” sizeable estate tax deduction in the course of estate administration by structuring a $2.4 million 10-year loan from decedent’s insurance trust to decedent’s estate (holding facially illiquid LLC interest) in a manner qualifying for an upfront estate-tax deduction of all future interest payable on the loan.
- Represented a decedent’s second wife in the renegotiation of a proposed settlement agreement with the decedent’s children, proposing in place of the settlement agreement that the wife execute partial disclaimers of federally-mandated spousal interests in retirement plans and simultaneously purchase the marital home (at no taxable gain) with the remaining plan proceeds, with results consistent with intended prenuptial agreement and superior tax results for all parties, and with this eleventh-hour proposal being accepted by counsel for all parties.
- Handled U.S. aspects of estate planning, in coordination with U.S. and Swiss advisors, for wealthy elderly couple with dual U.S.-Swiss citizenship, dual residences, and extensive corporate and real-property interests in U.S. and Switzerland, seeking to reconcile requirements of inconsistent U.S. and Swiss tax regimes and legal systems while adhering to pre-existing prenuptial agreement.
- Assisted terminally ill client with end-of-life planning, saving about $300,000 in estate taxes (about 35%) through (1) gifts of fractional interests in waterfront summer house and (2) conversion of land development company from S corporation to limited liability company, coupled with sales and gifting of LLC member interests to children.
- Assisted guardian with estate planning for brain damaged ward under Massachusetts statute, including preparation of new revocable trust (based on ward’s limited expression of wishes), presentation of estate plan to probate court for approval, and liaison with insurance companies to designate trust as beneficiary of $4 million of annuity policies funded under structured settlement of worker’s compensation claim in New York.
Robert M. Geurden:
- Successfully argued a trust reformation case before the Supreme Judical Court of Massachusetts, Bruner v. Bruner, which resulted in preservation of trust fund of over $800,000 for intended beneficiaries of trust.
- Designed and implemented a plan for an estate owning an interest in a single valuable but non-standard and illiquid parcel of real estate that required a custom-drafted reverse mortgage agreement, but that has allowed the surviving spouse to remain in her family home and that positioned surviving spouse’s estate for significant reduction in estate taxes.
- Assisted client forming new business venture to negotiate and draft LLC Operating Agreement with client’s two business partners taking into account differing capital contributions of each partner and differing ages and therefore expected retirement dates of each partner.
- Successfully created Delaware “Series” LLC’s for the purposes of holding portfolios of Massachusetts real estate, thereby minimizing the client’s annual compliance expenses. In at least one instance, the arrangement so created has been reviewed and approved by client’s lender’s counsel.
- Helped widow understand the value of commercial property that she had inherited and renegotiated the lease to that property, thereby guaranteeing her a $35,000 per year increase in her income for at least five years.
- Structured estate plan to protect client’s minor grandson from the grandson’s father, who has been convicted of drug-related felony.
- Drafted and obtained court-approval of Special Needs Trust to permit beneficiary with developmental disabilities to both enjoy inheritance left to her by grandmother and to continue to be eligible for public benefits.
- Advised start-up business based in Europe but doing business in the U.S. on appropriate choice of entity under which to conduct U.S. business in light of applicable U.S. tax treaty provisions and concerning compliance with U.S. tax laws.
- Successfully assisted client in understanding and unwinding ill-conceived “charitable split dollar” contract established by client’s father but under which client was potentially liable as trustee of trust created by client’s father.
- Designed and drafted tax-sensitive estate plan for mentally incapacitated client with substantial net-worth and obtained court approval of same, thereby saving client’s family approximately $400,000 in estate taxes.