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Tax & Estate Planning
“Tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today…”
– Herman Wouk, 1947
Walton & Walton’s Tax and Estate Planning practice group provides tax planning and business structuring for corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships and individuals.
Our lawyers have deep expertise in every aspect of complex tax matters. We routinely handle tax matters arising from business transactions, international and cross border transactions, real estate transactions, executive compensation planning, employee benefits, and estate planning. When tax litigation or controversies arise, we are equipped to respond. We counsel nonprofit organizations and tax-exempt entities as well.
Business Tax Planning
Our tax lawyers work closely with the firm's business and finance attorneys, identifying and handling the tax consequences of transactions such as taxable mergers and acquisitions, or the purchases and sales of stock, other equity interests and assets. We counsel clients on choice of entity and structure and related party transactions such as partnership and corporation-shareholder transactions. We are adept at handling debt and equity-partner restructuring, structuring private equity, hedge fund and venture capital transactions, tax-free reorganizations and leasing transactions.
International Tax Planning
We assist our clients operating in the international arena with a variety of tax issues that may arise in international and cross-border transactions, expansion of their U.S. businesses abroad, and strategic alliances and joint ventures. We also counsel clients in connection with tax and withholding for international employees, classification of U.S. and foreign business entities, tax treaties and elimination of double taxation, transfer pricing and transfers of intangible property and services abroad. We also advise clients in connection with foreign investment in the U.S., controlled foreign corporations and passive foreign investment companies.
Real Estate Tax Planning
Our tax lawyers are adept at structuring real estate holding entities, acquisitions, sales and exchanges of real estate, planning U.S. real estate holdings for non-U.S. investors, and limiting unrelated business income for tax-exempt owners of real estate.
Walton & Walton attorneys work with employers in the design and implementation of many types of compensation arrangements. We structure equity incentive programs such as incentive and non-qualified stock option plans, restricted stock and section 83(b) elections, stock appreciation rights and employee stock purchase plans. We craft deferred compensation agreements and plans, supplemental executive retirement programs (SERPS), current and deferred bonus plans, split dollar agreements, and change of control and severance agreements. We assist with Section 409A compliance, Golden Parachute planning, Section 162(m) performance compensation planning and insurance programs such as corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) and bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) programs.
In the employee benefits arena, we represent employers, trustees, plan sponsors, investment advisors and lenders to address Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) matters, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), pension, health and welfare benefit plans and collectively bargained trust funds.
Tax Controversies and Litigation
Our lawyers represent taxpayers in the resolution of Federal and state civil tax audits, appeals, and litigation, Federal and state criminal tax investigations, Grand Jury investigations, and criminal trials. We also handle disputes in connection with estate and gift tax audits, appeals, and litigation, ERISA and DOL penalties and judicial forfeiture proceedings.
Estate Planning and Wealth Transfer
Our estate planning lawyers have earned the confidence of generations of clients. We represent a broad range of clients from individuals just beginning their financial lives to those who are contemplating retirement and the disposition of their business interests. We address the impact of their business arrangements on families, immediately and multi-generationally, and as well as the influence they may have on society through philanthropic endeavors that hold personal significance to them. We have decades of trust and estate counseling experience, and have the skill and discretion to handle even the most sensitive and complex matters.
We are fortunate to have at our disposal the resources and expertise of our corporate, tax, finance, intellectual property, real estate, and, when necessary, litigation lawyers to provide our clients with a tailored solution to the issue(s) that concern them. We are also aware that our client’s may have other professional advisors that are vitally important to the estate planning process.
Some of the tools and techniques that can be applied to various circumstances:
Wills and Living Trusts
These instruments are the foundational component of most estate plans. These documents must be designed to fit the family and financial circumstances, and be drafted as succinctly as possible, yet as complicated as is necessary to achieve the client’s objectives.
Specialized Irrevocable Trusts
At times an irrevocable trust is the most effective vehicle to accomplish a specific objective, and is often used to receive, hold and administer assets for the benefit of the family. Irrevocable trusts are also often used to acquire and hold life insurance, invest gifted assets and protect against future creditors. These type of trusts may include, but are certainly not limited to, life insurance trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts and special needs trusts.
Family Limited Partnerships
Family partnerships (and family limited liability companies) have been touted as a way to achieve a variety of objectives, especially, estate tax reduction through the application of various appropriate discounts, but can also provide valuable creditor protection, and serve as a method to preserve a particular asset or business for multiple generations. Rich Walton teaches Business Valuation at U.C.L.A. and is one of the country’s most knowledgable practitioners in this area.
Charitable Trusts and Foundations
A number of our clients incorporate some type of philanthropic objective as part of their estate plan. Many of these techniques are integrated into the over-all plan and provide income and estate tax advantages, and achieve the client’s long-term charitable goals. We also form private and public charities, and advise on their continued management and investment standards, as well as their reporting requirements.
We understand that estate planning is a highly personal and uniquely personal undertaking. We listen to our clients in order to develop an understanding of their philosophies, as well as their unique goals and objectives, and are sensitive to identify the concerns of each client. Armed with this foundation, we are better prepared to provide guidance and counsel to each client and to develop a plan that that is comprehensive, flexible and specifically designed to meet the needs and long-term goals of each client, minimize the potential for pitfalls, incorporate preventative strategies to address specific concerns, bring to bear the appropriate planning tools to implement the plan while, at the same time, minimize the potential federal and state income, transfer, and estate tax impact of the proposed plan.
We are often called upon to be innovators; to fashion creative legal solutions to some of life’s messiest challenges. Who receives an inheritance, what they receive, how they receive it and when they receive it, are all critical questions in developing any estate plan. We are mindful that most of our clients want to encourage and empower their heirs to work diligently to attain success, and want to avoid their heirs becoming financially dependent on what they have inherited. We are keenly aware of and are sensitive to the need for privacy for certain clients and the need to protect their public persona and reputation. What can be done to provide for aging parent, incapacitated spouse or disabled child?
Walton & Walton also represents owners of new and emerging companies. These clients, as a group, generally have issues that are unique to entrepreneurs, such as those related to business succession, liquidity in the event of death or disability, management issues, in additional to the natural immediate concern for family financial security in the event of death or disability. The business is often the dominate financial instrument in a client’s portfolio. Many of these clients desire to pass their business on to their children or other co-owners. These circumstances, managed inadequately, can create problems not only for the people involved, but the business, as well.
We are also called upon to provide counsel to our clients on any number of other issues that may arise concerning their wealth or family situation, including, but not limited to, asset protection, diversification techniques, family dispute resolution, generation-skipping, post-mortem administration, life insurance and leveraged asset transfer techniques.
The last and most often overlooked phase of the estate planning process is the administration, settlement and distribution of the estate following a death. During this especially emotional time, our goal is to assist the trustee or executor carry-out the decedent’s instructions as expressed in their estate planning documents, as quickly and inexpensively as possible.