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Estate Planning

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Experience

No matter how hard you’ve worked to build your future, your efforts could be wasted without the right guidance to defend the legacy you’ve achieved and pass it on to your heirs. Your well-deserved financial success creates important estate planning decisions. That’s particularly true because the tax laws create a maze of traps for the unwary, affecting all the wealth you have built and the steps you must take to preserve it.

McNair’s estate planning lawyers help clients with virtually any size estate to provide for their beneficiaries, minimize their taxes and preserve what they have accumulated in their lifetime. If, like many of our clients, you live either in a popular retirement area such as Hilton Head Island or Kiawah Island, or in our business communities of Columbia, Charleston or Charlotte, McNair lawyers in your community will work directly with you to custom-tailor wills, trust agreements and business plans to your specific needs.

Business owners, physicians, lawyers and other professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, executives, retirees and their families trust us to respect their unique concerns and wishes, and to transfer their assets from one generation to the next, efficiently and cost-effectively.

The tax strategies designed for you will:

  • Estimate and minimize estate tax liability exposure;
  • Create a variety of trusts and lifetime gifts to shelter family assets and minimize tax impact, such as revocable living trusts, charitable trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, insurance trusts and generation-skipping trusts;
  • Structure the estate in ways that permit qualification for payment of estate taxes during an extended period of years; and
  • Minimize the value of a family business for federal estate tax purposes, while transferring control to the next generation.

Family businesses pose special estate planning challenges, and McNair can assist you with your business succession planning. We help you achieve your personal and business objectives through management and tax strategies, which include handling the necessary issues of control with tact and sensitivity when these considerations span several generations, or are made more complex by divorce and remarriage. When it’s not possible or desirable for the business to continue in your family, we can create buy-sell agreements to accomplish asset transfers to other owners in ways that meet your tax management, succession planning and estate planning goals.

Example of our Services
At McNair, it is central to our estate planning philosophy that we advise families over a period of many years as their assets grow and estate needs change. For one family that owned and operated a successful business, we developed a plan spanning nearly 20 years that used techniques to form new operating entities that would allow transfer of business assets to the younger generation in a tax-efficient way. Our strategy enhanced the family’s wealth, minimized their taxes and moved the business to a new generation of owners and managers.

You’ve earned your financial assets. That’s why we are committed to helping you manage and protect your accumulated wealth through effective tax, investment and personal planning strategies. You will receive estate planning solutions that are carried out as you intend, maximizing financial benefits while minimizing taxes and fulfilling all fiduciary responsibilities.

Although these plans will provide for the distribution of assets that occurs after death, they also address numerous other issues that affect your financial future. For example, we can create a variety of trusts and lifetime gifts to shelter family assets and minimize tax impact, and establish independent asset management arrangements for your convenience. Our lawyers can integrate your insurance, tax-deferred compensation and IRA distributions, and provide for medical needs that involve elder care, incapacity or heirs with disabilities. And whether your wealth and estate plan involves a simple will or a series of complex trusts, we work with executors and administrators to make sure all the details are handled properly, throughout the years on your behalf while protecting your heirs.

Example of our Services
Our lawyers understand the sensitive estate planning issues that family controversies create. One of our clients, a retired banker who had remarried, feared that his children would work to undermine an estate plan in which his second wife was the primary beneficiary. McNair created a series of trust arrangements that provided protection to the wife, while assuring that assets were structured to withstand any challenge in court.

Estate and trust controversies are always sensitive and often complex. We represent you at trial and in negotiation, often using our knowledge of tax and business planning to create solutions – particularly when disputes involve family members. We have resolved a variety of will and trust contests (including contested bequests and charitable pledge disputes), striving to make sure that the original wishes of our clients are carried out as intended. We also work to resolve breach of fiduciary duty claims and probate controversies. When necessary, we will work to resolve tax disputes with state and federal tax authorities.

Example of our Services
A will is the centerpiece of an estate plan, and if the terms of a will are contested, McNair lawyers will defend them in court. In one instance, we argued and won a case before the North Carolina Supreme Court in which multiple family member plaintiffs challenged the language of the will we had prepared for our client. The Court agreed with our interpretation of language that defined how much each beneficiary would receive – thus ensuring that the wishes of our client would be properly carried out.

If you have a child, spouse or other beneficiaries who cannot manage their own affairs, you can look to us to handle guardianship issues. Whether the need is to ensure that a court-appointed guardian understands and carries out the terms of your will or to oversee a financial institution’s management of assets designated for guardian care, your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones protected. We will also work with the court to oversee the process of securing proper financial management, physical care and lodging, particularly in instances where a change in residence or caretaker is necessary.

Example of our Services
Our clients were an elderly couple whose caregiver defrauded them out of millions of dollars from their estate. In a rare action, we went before the Probate Court to make the difficult but necessary argument that our clients were mentally incompetent and required a court-appointed guardian to oversee asset recovery and preservation. The Probate Court agreed, and our clients received the protection they needed.