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    Family Wealth Transfer Planning and Trust and Estate Administration
    Not-For-Profit Organizations

    Family Wealth Transfer Planning and Trust and Estate Administration

    A Trusted Advisor for Generations

    A legacy is important. It demonstrates what you valued during your lifetime—not only the wealth you accumulated but also what was important to you and what you wanted to pass on to future generations. Estate planning is more than just drafting legal documents and analyzing tax issues; it is also a process for ensuring that your last wishes are carried out, your testamentary documents acting as your final communication to your children and grandchildren.

    Keeping the Family Money Where the Family Wants It

    A testamentary document also serves as a guide for the professionals handling your estate. Administrative issues can extend out for generations and may include such unexpected events as will contests, complicated valuation issues and tax audits.

    Whether you intend to leave your assets to family heirs, to philanthropic organizations or to a combination of the two, laying the proper groundwork helps ensure that your legacy will be protected by distributing your assets in a way that most clearly reflects your values and intentions.

    More Than Estate Planners

    In addition to preparing testamentary documents, we help our clients establish family limited partnerships, dynasty trusts, charitable lead annuity trusts (CLATs), private foundations, supporting foundations, grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), charitable remainder trusts, prenuptial agreements and offshore asset protection trusts, and we counsel clients with respect to gifts and sales to defective grantor trusts.

    We advise corporate and individual fiduciaries in all manner of probate and trust administration, including counseling trustees with respect to risk management in determining whether to accept trusteeships; advising with regard to administration matters, accountings and exercise of discretionary trustee powers; and petitioning for probate court instructions and modifications of irrevocable trusts.

    We are regularly called upon to represent trustees and executors in uncontested, contested and litigated probate court proceedings, or to protect the interests of individual and charitable beneficiaries, heirs and creditors in such proceedings.

    Fulfilling Philanthropic Wishes

    We advise clients on the full gamut of philanthropic vehicles as well as the most effective approaches to structuring large or complex charitable gifts. Because we also represent many charitable organizations, we understand both sides of such transactions. In addition to advising clients on any attendant legal restrictions, we work diligently to structure gifts that match the donor’s philanthropic interests with the charity’s current fundraising priorities.

    Manatt’s family wealth transfer planning practice group represents:

    • High-net-worth individuals including entrepreneurs, and their families; owners of substantial family businesses; and political, entertainment and sports figures
    • Trust companies and trust departments of major banks
    • Individual and charitable fiduciaries, beneficiaries, trustees and creditors of substantial trusts and estates in the United States and abroad

    Our team has a unique skill set and includes several LL.M.s, a CPA and a certified specialist in trust and estate planning. Our litigators have an enviable track record handling will contests and a wide variety of other trust and estate litigation matters.

    Areas of Focus

    Family Wealth Transfer Planning

    Manatt has one of the largest groups of trust and estate attorneys in California, with client service capabilities throughout the state. Our attorneys bring an extraordinary amount of experience to assisting high net worth individuals and families in implementing their wealth transfer strategies through effective tax and estate planning. We also advise trust companies, trust departments of major banks, and individual fiduciaries in all aspects of trust and estate administration in the U.S. and abroad. Our trust and estate attorneys counsel beneficiaries and creditors to help protect their interests in substantial estates and trusts in the U.S. and overseas. We provide trust and estate litigation and dispute resolution services to our clients, including representation in will and trust contests.

    Our lawyers have particular expertise in developing personalized, creative estate planning solutions for high net worth individuals and families, including entrepreneurs, owners of substantial family businesses, and political, entertainment and sports figures. We use revocable trusts and all manner of irrevocable trusts to transfer wealth to succeeding generations in an estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax-efficient manner. Charitable planning, asset protection, discount planning through the use of family limited partnerships and family limited liability companies and tax management strategies are incorporated into clients' estate planning as appropriate. Sophisticated planning techniques, such as grantor retained annuity trusts and sales to defective grantor trusts, are considered in appropriate client circumstances. We counsel owners of closely held businesses with regard to proper business structure and succession planning. Representative examples of Manatt's role as family wealth transfer advisors include the following: 

    • Manatt has been representing multiple generations of a single family for nearly 40 years, whose combined net worth approaches $1 billion. The patriarch of the family began to create the family wealth more than 60 years ago in the form of substantial commercial real estate holdings. Trusts that we established for the first generation 40 years ago are still in existence, and operate to benefit the second, third, and fourth generations of this family while maintaining control of the myriad business entities established to manage their holdings. In addition, the transfer of business interests to those trusts has created a freeze on the value of the assets that has saved the family hundreds of millions of dollars in estate taxes. We continue to plan with successive generations, each with its own issues, values, and concerns. Evidencing Manatt's ability to provide integrated services to our clients, our real estate attorneys work with the family and the senior management staff of their businesses on all of their business needs, thus providing them with legal counsel that considers all aspects of their personal and business lives.
    • We are working with two siblings who inherited substantial wealth from their parents. The siblings each have their own families and their own values, but they are very much in business together. Working closely with our clients' financial advisor and accountants to ensure that all decisions are made with full information and analysis, our lawyers have helped the siblings to:
      • Administer their father's postmortem estate
      • Update their own respective estate planning documents
      • Create a family limited partnership as well as grantor trusts to which limited partnership units have been sold and gifted
      • Implement their philanthropic goals by creating both a charitable lead trust and a supporting foundation.  
    • Manatt represents a high net worth couple who have significant philanthropic goals. The clients have made substantial lifetime philanthropic gifts, and intend to leave the bulk of their estates to charities upon their deaths. Manatt lawyers helped to structure significant lifetime philanthropic gifts for them, including the donation of artwork to museums as well as the creation of endowments at various charitable organizations. In part through a highly successful grantor retained annuity trust that we designed, our clients also have transferred a substantial portion of their wealth to their heirs free of gift tax. We work closely with the senior staff at our clients' privately held company on all aspects of their estate and philanthropic planning.

    Trust and Estate Administration

    Manatt lawyers counsel surviving family members through the entire process of postmortem administration of their family trusts, including estate tax matters and funding assets among newly established trusts. We also counsel numerous corporate and individual fiduciaries in all manner of probate and trust administration, including counseling trustees with respect to risk management in determining whether to accept trusteeships; advising with regard to administration matters, accountings, and exercise of trustee powers; and asking the probate court for instructions and modifications of irrevocable trusts. We regularly represent trustees and executors, individual and charitable beneficiaries, and creditors in uncontested, contested, and litigated probate court proceedings, including will and trust contests. 

    As an example of our trust administration capabilities, we provide ongoing representation to individual successor trustees in a multiple-year post-death administration of a $500 million trust. Our lawyers have assisted the trustees by: 

    • Advising on the management and disposition of worldwide business and investment assets
    • Submitting estate and inheritance tax returns in the U.S. and in various jurisdictions in Asia
    • Negotiating with Swiss bankers and their New York counsel to secure the repatriation of significant assets from several Liechtenstein Stiftungs
    • Successfully defending against a $60 million estate tax audit after the IRS disallowed the marital deduction
    • Counseling on U.S. income tax issues pertaining to numerous controlled foreign corporations and passive foreign investment companies
    • Working with the California Attorney General to resolve issues pertaining to claims against the decedent's private foundation
    • Negotiating with a public charity regarding the contribution of valuable real property from the decedent's private foundation 

    In an example of our corporate fiduciary representation, we prepared and filed a petition requesting the probate court to instruct the trustee to sell one of three condominiums owned by a private trust. The settlor/beneficiary of the trust was elderly and living in a nursing care facility. The trust lacked sufficient liquid assets to pay for the ongoing expenses of the beneficiary's care. The remainder beneficiaries vigorously objected to the sale of the condominium, arguing that a taxable capital gain could be avoided if the trust were to borrow money instead. When the only loan available to the trust was a subprime loan at a high interest rate, our probate attorney argued at the probate court hearing that, because of the high cost of borrowing in this circumstance, a sale was appropriate even if a capital gain was recognized. The judge agreed, and instructed the trustee to sell one of the condominiums.

    Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Manatt attorneys represent individual and corporate fiduciaries, charities, individuals, heirs, beneficiaries, and third-party claimants in a wide variety of trust and estate litigation matters in probate and civil courts, from initiation of a case through its final appeal. Our typical litigation representation employs a team approach, pairing a member of our trusts and estates practice group with a litigation attorney with specialized experience in trust and estate matters. The depth and variety of our experience in these matters allow our litigation team members to recognize circumstances in which expensive and time-consuming litigation can be avoided and more efficient alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, can be employed successfully. The following examples illustrate several successful trust and estate litigation matters handled on behalf of Manatt clients: 

    Trustee Representations 

    • We took over as litigation counsel for a corporate trustee four years into a lawsuit initiated by the remainder beneficiary of a private trust. In less than a year, we completed discovery, and drafted and won summary judgment on all eight civil and all four probate claims, thereby avoiding the expense of a trial. In connection with our successful opposition to the petitioner's attempt to revive the appeal in this case, we won sanctions against the petitioner's counsel. Bryanv. Bank of America, 86 Cal. App. 4th 185 (2001).
    • On behalf of a corporate cotrustee, we won our motion for judgment at the close of the remainder beneficiary's case on her claims for breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with a seven-figure trust real estate investment. We also successfully defended this judgment on appeal.

    Beneficiary Representations 

    • In a probate proceeding on behalf of the son of a deceased vineyard owner, we successfully prosecuted his claim to the family's 80-acre Napa County vineyard. Our client's claim was seemingly time-barred by a statute stating it could not be "tolled or extended for any reason." We made new California law by establishing that, notwithstanding this restrictive statutory language, equitable estoppel barred the application of the statute, and our client's claim remained viable. Battuello v. Battuello, 64 Cal. App. 4th 842 (1998).
    • We protected the charitable interests of a Bay Area college in connection with an individual trustee's petition to modify the distribution provisions of an irrevocable trust. In response to our briefing in opposition to the petition, the trustee withdrew his petition and an amicable and swift resolution was accomplished. 

    Administrative Issues 

    • We made new California law in Wells Fargo Bank v. Superior Court (Boltwood), 22 Cal. 4th 201 (2000), in which, representing amicus curiae, our lawyers helped clarify and extend the scope of the attorney-client privilege for trustees of private trusts. 

    Attorneys & Professionals

    Cerruti, Veronica K. San Francisco 415.291.7426
    Dodd, Jill S. San Francisco 415.291.7421
    Hofbauer, Claire F. San Francisco 415.291.7424
    Johnson, Scott B. San Francisco 415.291.7428
    Kassoy, Arnold D. Los Angeles 310.312.4314
    Levitt, Alvin T. San Francisco 415.291.7422
    Redsar, Vivian U. San Francisco 415.291.7433
    Wolfe, Sheldon H. San Francisco 415.291.7432

    Family Wealth Transfer Planning and Trust and Estate Administration

    Representative Matters

    They Put Their Trust in Us

    • We created a family limited partnership whose partners consisted of our client and the trustee of the client's dynasty trust. Our client made a gift of limited partnership interests to a CLAT, which will endow her philanthropy for 20 years. At the end of 20 years, the assets remaining in the CLAT will pass to the dynasty trust for her heirs, free of gift tax.
    • In a recent will contest, we successfully defended a medical center foundation against claims that the testator had been unduly influenced by our client when he made his multimillion-dollar gift to it.
    • We established a GRAT for the founders of a biotech firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company has since been sold, and substantial wealth will be passed to the founders' heirs at no gift or estate tax cost.
    • We created a family limited partnership and a dynasty trust where the client gifted and sold nonvoting membership interests in the LLP to the dynasty trust in exchange for a promissory note. The play between the interest on the note and the expected appreciation of the assets over time is the excess that will go to our client's children, free of gift tax. We also worked with this client to carefully craft trust language that reflected her values and her wish that her heirs lead productive lives independent of their potential trust distributions.

    Manatt is proud of the long-term relationships we've built with our clients—oftentimes spanning multiple generations. This trust and longevity speak to the confidence our clients have placed in our firm to fulfill their wishes, even beyond their natural life. We take this responsibility seriously and value the role we can play in protecting our clients' legacies.

  • Awards & Rankings

    logo/img/@altRanked in San Francisco for Trusts & Estates Law 2011–2016

    logo/img/@altRanked in San Francisco for Litigation – Trusts & Estates 2011–2016