Private Clients Group


Our Private Clients Group, which includes attorneys based in our Chicago, Los Angeles and New York offices, provides a full range of legal services to U.S. and foreign clients on a wide variety of matters, including income, estate and gift tax planning for the cost-effective transfer of wealth, the administration of complex estates and lifetime trusts, charitable giving, and the creation of charitable organizations.  Included among the services we provide are the drafting of wills, trusts, partnership agreements, limited liability agreements and other related estate planning documents such as health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney.  The nature of the representation of wealthy individuals and their families has evolved considerably over the past two decades, and increasingly clients are looking to benefit from the full spectrum of services available to them at Willkie.  We regularly work with our colleagues in the corporate, tax, real estate, executive compensation and litigation departments to provide comprehensive advice to our clients.

Members of our Private Clients Group are ranked among the leading practitioners in California (Southern), Illinois, New York and the Eastern Region-USA by Chambers High Net Worth 2021, which states that “Willkie's ‘excellent’ private clients group advises on wealth planning techniques including estate planning, charitable planning and trusts.” Additionally, Chambers selected Willkie as one of six finalists for Trusts & Estates Team of the Year at the 2019 Chambers High Net Worth USA Awards. 


  • Charitable Foundations

    We have developed a substantial practice in forming and advising private foundations and charitable corporations and trusts.  The scope of our representation of charitable organizations encompasses both incorporation and the procurement of tax-exempt status.  We also advise these groups on compliance with federal income and gift tax laws and regulations, and federal and state reporting requirements.

  • Corporate

    We participate in many significant corporate transactions that include trust or estate ownership of securities.  We have advised both buyers and sellers when trusts have ownership interests in the companies involved in the underlying transactions.  Members of our team have substantial experience in working with our corporate department to identify estate and gift planning opportunities at the creation of certain entities (in particular hedge fund management companies) and at the time of a liquidity event of a more mature company (presale and pre-IPO planning).  Both instances provide rare opportunities for significant tax savings.

    Diversification of holdings is often a desirable goal of corporate executives.  We work with our corporate executive clients to structure stock sale plans that are regulatory compliant and that account for the political issues related to sales by “insiders.”  Our corporate attorneys advise on the regulatory issues related to any sale plan and fully participate in critical discussions that may be necessary with the corporation’s general counsel.

  • Estate Controversies

    Our group represents estates and individuals in litigation involving complex issues arising from will contests and other estate controversies, as well as in litigation and negotiations with federal, state and foreign taxing authorities.

  • Family Offices

    Our team works with many single- and multi-family offices to provide comprehensive solutions to the complex issues facing today’s wealthiest families. We represent a number of family offices whose median AUM exceeds $6 billion, with aggregate AUM for all family office clients of $100+ billion (excluding the value of private operating companies). The group takes pride in the ability to work collaboratively with a family’s other advisers to craft integrated plans that best serve the needs of each family.

  • Real Estate and Tax

    Our clients invest in a vast array of investments including real estate, insurance and sophisticated derivatives.  We work closely with our tax and real estate practitioners to advise on such investments.  In addition, we represent families that have substantial commercial real estate holdings, providing them with comprehensive advice on estate planning as well as successful succession planning.

  • Sophisticated Tax and Estate Planning

    Our attorneys incorporate the most sophisticated income, estate and gift tax planning techniques into traditional estate planning to generate optimum tax benefits while maintaining the flexibility to effectively manage personal and family-owned assets of every nature.  We tailor estate plans to the individual needs of each client by making innovative use of tax-efficient vehicles such as sophisticated wills, lifetime retained-interest trusts, grantor trusts, offshore trusts, life insurance trusts, charitable trusts and intrafamily sales and transfers.  Particular to each client's personal and financial situation, these vehicles are funded with assets carefully selected to take full advantage of the benefits available under the Internal Revenue Code.  For clients with interests in small or family-owned businesses, estate planning may also include management succession planning, buy/sell agreements, restructuring agreements for closely held corporations and agreements for intrafamily transfers of corporate and partnership interests.

    Our firm has substantial experience in the administration of estates of varying sizes.  In instances where an individual did not establish an estate plan during his lifetime, we advise the executors on post-mortem estate planning techniques, enabling the estate to take advantage of tax benefits that might otherwise have been lost.  We also represent individual and corporate fiduciaries, offering them counsel on compliance with the strict standard of fiduciary conduct imposed upon their decisions including the changing laws governing investment policy.

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