Estate Planning & Probate Law
The personal legal services attorneys at Clark Hill handle our trusts and estates practice. Estate planning is more than drafting trusts and wills and handling estates - we counsel you (and your family) and present practical plans and suggestions for the preservation and the tax-sensitive distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries. We have extensive experience with the complex tax and probate laws which apply to your situation and take pride in our ability to explain practical and understandable solutions for your individual situation. We are sensitive to the specialized needs of seniors, and those who are unable to handle his or her affairs because of immaturity or incapacity. When disputes arise, we act as mediators and arbitrators, or when necessary, we aggressively litigate and advocate your position through the trial and appellate courts. We always keep in mind that in family situations, a solution reached among the parties outside the courts is often the best long-term solution. We are experienced estate planners, tax planners and trial attorneys. Members of our group are well respected in both the public and private sector, and we are often consulted by and hired by other attorneys for our expertise. Collectively we have over 200 years of experience at what we do.
The Estate Planning Process
Estate planning is a very personal process and an important part of planning for the future for you as well as your family. We are sensitive to the emotional aspects of estate planning and are confident our methods and explanations will make the entire estate planning experience satisfying.
Estate planning commences with an initial discussion of your estate planning objectives and a confidential analysis of present and future assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Detailed consideration is then given to family considerations as well as to tax and probate ramifications; we also include a calculation of estimated federal estate taxes, state estate and inheritance taxes, gift taxes and income tax consequences.
After our analysis and discussion, we present a proposed estate plan including drafts of various estate planning documents. These documents typically include a Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Patient Advocate (for health care decisions) and Medical Record Authorization forms to comply with Federal privacy rules. The plan may also include additional documents depending upon your circumstances and objectives such as an irrevocable life insurance trust, or other specialized techniques discussed below. Our goal is to help you achieve your objectives for the preservation and distribution of assets to your family while minimizing taxes and other administrative expenses (probate).
To assist you in commencing the estate planning process, an Estate Planning Information Questionnaire is available for your use:
Understandable Estate Planning Documents
We draft our wills, trust agreements, durable powers of attorney, designations of patient advocate and other estate planning documents so they are understandable to you yet effective in implementing the personal planning and tax strategies in your estate plan. We are often asked to provide speakers at statewide legal education seminars on the topic of how to draft clear, concise estate planning documents.
Leadership and Reputation
Clark Hill is a leader in the area of trust and estate practice with a reputation for applying the latest estate planning knowledge and techniques tailored to meet your objectives and your individual family and financial situation. We are active in, and hold leadership positions with state and national organizations that are in the forefront of developments in the estate planning, probate, and tax areas. We are frequently asked to share our knowledge and experience at seminars for other lawyers, law students, and community groups and other gatherings. We represent a wide range of clients in trust and estate planning matters.
We are often involved in the legislative process, including drafting estate planning, probate and tax legislation, and analyzing proposed legislation.
Eric Dorkin, MacKenzie Hyde and Ray Koenig obtained a significant victory in the 1st District Appellate Court. In a case of first impression, the Illinois Appellate Court granted Clark Hill’s emergency appeal in favor of Nina L., a minor seeking to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to stay in the United States following her 18th birthday. The trial court had denied Nina L.’s request for the judicial findings necessary for her to apply to remain in the United States after being abandoned by her natural parents. The trial court held that it was not proper for it to enter findings pursuant to federal statute. The Appellate Court reversed and entered the required findings itself on an emergency basis so that Nina L. could timely file the required documents with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as her 18th birthday was just days away.
As reported in the local legal press, “This is a case that really mattered,” said Dorkin, who represented Nina L. “If the case was decided the other way, she was going back to Taiwan with no known family or connections and just a high school degree, and I think that’s a recipe for lifelong disaster.”
Estate of Donald Howell v. Donald Brenard Howell, 2015 IL App (1st) 133247 and 1140810 (cons.)
The Raymond W. Pontarelli Trust, et al. v. Michael Pontarelli, et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 133138
In re Estate of Leonard Koenen, 2014 IL App (1st) 140080-U
In re Guardianship of Florence Pontarelli, 2014 IL App (1st) 122782-U
Represented client in formation of a Family LLC to leverage discounts available to pass family wealth to second and more remote generations while minimizing estate and gift taxes
Represented multiple clients in “second home planning” for properties on Lake Michigan and inland lakes in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois
Represented high net worth clients in the negotiation and implementation of pre-nuptial agreements
Represented client in three-way commercial closing in excess of $7 million dollars
Represented executor in negotiation and approval of a multi-million dollar wrongful-death settlement, including a partial sealing of the court file in order to secure settlement confidentiality requirement
Representing the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and the American Red Cross in separate will and trust contests in Oakland County Probate Court
Successfully representing Comerica Bank in a complex will and trust contest in the Wayne County Probate Court
Obtaining a favorable settlement on behalf of two beneficiaries of a substantial family trust against Standard Federal Bank and one of the largest Michigan law firms in a case involving breach of the prudent investor rule and breach of fiduciary duties in the management of a hedge fund which stuffed its gain to the trust