Private Clients Group

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Our Private Clients Group, which includes attorneys based in our Chicago, Los Angeles and New York offices, provides best-in-class legal services to clients in the United States and abroad on a wide variety of matters, including estate planning and income, estate and gift tax planning for the cost-effective transfer of wealth, the administration of complex estates, trusts and charitable organizations, business succession planning and corporate transactions, and philanthropy.

Wealthy individuals and their families face increasingly complex legal and business issues – and increasingly look to benefit from the full spectrum of services available to them at Willkie. Our team works closely with colleagues in the corporate, asset management, tax, real estate, executive compensation, intellectual property, and litigation departments to provide comprehensive counsel to our clients.

Members of our Private Clients Group are ranked among the leading practitioners in Southern California, Illinois, New York and both the Eastern and Western Regions of the United States 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.” In addition to other accolades, Willkie was named a finalist for Trusts & Estates Team of the Year at the 2019 Chambers High Net Worth USA Awards.

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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 myriad personal and family-owned assets. 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. These vehicles are funded with assets carefully selected to take full advantage of the benefits available under the Internal Revenue Code and to complement each client’s personal and financial situation. For clients with interests in 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.

Willkie has significant experience in the administration of estates of all sizes. In instances where an estate plan was not established during an individual’s 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 laws governing investment policy.

In close collaboration with state and local tax attorneys, as needed, our team also provides guidance on state and local tax issues for individuals, family businesses and trusts, including the implications of migrating from one state to another, the purchase of additional residences, and the creation of trusts and selection of fiduciaries in other states.

We also advise on retirement account planning, and gift and estate tax return preparation, and our team provides support with respect to audits, accountings and general tax compliance.

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, including the full spectrum of transactional, tax and estate matters as well as business succession planning and next generation education. We represent a number of family offices whose median AUM exceeds $6 billion, with aggregate AUM for all family office clients of well over $150 billion (excluding the value of private operating companies). Willkie takes pride in the ability to work collaboratively with a family’s other advisers to design integrated plans that best serve the needs of each family. We also have experience advising corporate and individual fiduciaries, including managing trustee meetings and assisting in record keeping.

Cross-Border Planning

We advise clients on a range of cross-border issues, including investments in the United States by non-U.S. families, non-U.S. families with U.S. family members who are planning for either short-term or long- term/permanent stays in the United States, and non-U.S. persons working from time to time in the United States. We advise U.S. persons investing and/or living abroad. We provide guidance on U.S. income tax and transfer tax, including as they relate to controlled foreign corporations and passive foreign investment companies, and we collaborate with lawyers in non-U.S. jurisdictions to provide our clients with seamless advice.

Entertainment Industry Assets

We provide planning for assets unique to the entertainment industry, including loan-out corporations, name and likeness rights, residuals, profit participations and guild benefits.

Trusts

We advise clients on trust administration and the innovative use of trusts to fortify family wealth. We regularly advise on the creation and management of dynasty trusts and an array of split-interest trusts (including grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), grantor retained income trusts (GRITs), charitable lead annuity trusts (CLATs), charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs), charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs), and qualified personal resident trusts (QPERTs)). We also advise on the creation of private trust companies and related governance and tax matters, as well as the transition from individual and corporate trustees. Other areas of experience include sales to grantor trusts, partnership and LLC freeze planning, and the implementation of U.S. and offshore asset protection trusts.

Litigation

Our group, in collaboration with Willkie’s Litigation Department, represents fiduciaries of trusts and estates and individuals in litigation involving complex issues arising from will contests, trust administration and other controversies, as well as in litigation and negotiations with federal, state and foreign taxing authorities regarding gift and estate tax matters.

Corporate

In addition to advice regarding general corporate governance for family-owned companies, we provide guidance in significant corporate transactions that include trust or estate ownership, with experience advising both buyers and sellers. We also have extensive experience planning for interests in emerging or well-established private equity and hedge funds for both owners and investors. Our team works 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.

We help our corporate executive clients to diversify their holdings, structuring 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.

Real Estate

We advise our clients on a vast array of investments, including real estate. We represent families who have substantial residential and commercial real estate holdings, providing them with comprehensive advice on estate planning and succession planning.

Premarital and Marital Agreements

We have significant experience with all types of premarital and marital agreements, including agreements involving cross-border dynamics, the treatment of different asset classes (e.g., ultra-high-net-worth family assets, entertainment industry assets, private equity and hedge fund assets), multigenerational trusts, and determinations as to the character of property (i.e., community or separate).

Our experience includes working with divorce lawyers and assisting with all trusts and estates aspects of a divorce.

Charitable Foundations and Philanthropy

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 incorporation, the procurement of tax-exempt status, governance and dissolution. We advise these groups on compliance with federal income and gift tax laws and regulations, and federal and state reporting requirements. In addition, we have structured substantial charitable gift agreements, including gifts of fine art, airplanes and other non-cash assets.

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