Trusts and Estate Planning and Estate Administration

Assisting clients set reasonable objectives and reach goals

Assisting clients set reasonable goals is a fundamental component of the planning process. Since the future cannot be predicted, it is impossible to specify in advance what planning strategies will produce the optimal results. As attorneys, our job is to counsel clients to identify hidden issues, set reasonable objectives and to develop a plan and implement strategies that achieve favorable results under a wide range of circumstances.

Pre-death planning

At its core, Hickmon & Perrin, PC assists clients prepare for a number of potentially unpleasant contingencies, not the least of which is death. In our experience, most clients have developed unrealistic assumptions about the planning process and the available methods for disposing of assets and leaving legacies for their families or others. As attorneys, our initial responsibility is to challenge the client to evaluate their own individual set of circumstances in order that we may counsel them towards achieving a favorable outcome.

Hickmon & Perrin’s planning process includes:

  • A comprehensive initial meeting with the client to identify goals and objectives, family dynamics, and determine the nature of the client’s assets.
  • A review of all of the client’s financial, real estate, investment, and insurance information (including beneficiary designations and real property ownership).
  • Where appropriate, consultations with the client’s professional advisors, including financial advisors, bankers, accountants, trust professionals, insurance professionals and health care providers.
  • The production for the client of an Executive Summary of the proposed plan that specifically addresses the client’s unique goals and circumstances.
  • The preparation of draft documents for the client’s review, comment and questions.
  • The preparation of final documents tailored to the client’s needs and objectives.
  • A formal execution ceremony supervised by the client’s attorney, independent witnesses and a notary public to ensure the client’s instruments are executed in a manner that mitigates the chance of a successful court challenge.
  • Secure digital storage on the firm’s encrypted client portal of all of the client’s documents retrievable at all times by the client or the client’s duly authorized representative.

 

Post-mortem planning

Whether a person dies with a thoroughly thought-through estate plan or dies with no prior planning, the decedent’s family will be presented with a set of completely unexpected facts. The decedent’s plan may be well drafted and contemplate a variety of unexpected fact patterns. However, it is more likely that the actual facts will not dovetail snuggly with the decedent’s original plan. It is a certainty that complications will arise at a decedent’s death in the absence of any planning. For that reason, proper post-mortem planning is as important, and is frequently more important, than pre-death planning.

Hickmon & Perrin provides comprehensive post-mortem planning to individual and corporate fiduciaries facing the task of administering a decedent’s estate or trust. We provide advice regarding:

  • The preparation of probate applications, inventories and accountings with the Clerk of Court.
  • Advice designed to mitigate exposure to federal and North Carolina estate taxes, fiduciary income taxes, generation-skipping transfer taxes, and other potential tax liabilities.
  • Guidance in securing appraisals for investments, real estate, boats, airplanes, closely-held business interests, and other property of value owned by the decedent.
  • Guidance regarding post-mortem disclaimer planning.
  • Guidance regarding the management of creditors’ claims and the recovery of property owned by the decedent or the estate.
  • Advice regarding the preparation of, or the actual preparation of, federal and North Carolina estate, fiduciary income, and other tax-related returns.
  • Advice regarding the timing of the payment of debts and estate and trust administrative expenses in order to minimize the exposure of an estate, trust or the decedent’s beneficiaries to the imposition of tax liability.
  • Communications with the Courts, the IRS and NC Department of Revenue to ensure the estate or trust remains in compliance with required filing deadlines.
  • Advice, where appropriate, to surviving spouses, family members or other beneficiaries regarding the most efficient methods of transferring asset ownership.
  • The preparation and filing of all documents to formally conclude the administration of a decedent’s estate.

As a general rule, most if not all of the costs of Hickmon & Perrin’s professional fees are recouped or are significantly offset by the administration and tax cost savings achievable through the firm’s post-mortem planning process.