Wills and Trusts
SCA offers broad experience in estate planning, probate, and trust administration. Our attorneys provide a full range of estate, tax, business, charitable, and special needs planning for our clients. We are also experienced in handling contested proceedings involving estates, trusts, guardianships, and conservatorships in court, representing both fiduciaries and beneficiaries.
Our clients include corporate executives, closely held business owners, entrepreneurs, retired persons, charities, philanthropists, banks, trust companies, individuals serving as fiduciaries, and families of all sizes with all types of needs.
Clients benefit from the wide array of services that our attorneys offer, including:
- Creating unique estate plans for individuals
- Working to minimize estate taxes and preserve assets for future generations or other beneficiaries while accomplishing personal goals
- Facilitating the transfer of wealth through administration of estates and trusts
- Assisting with the preparation and filing of gift and estate tax returns
- Providing representation in probate and other courts involving will contests and estate disputes
- Addressing the special needs of beneficiaries, including those who cannot manage assets or who suffer from mental or physical disabilities
- Counseling on appropriate means to protect assets from creditors and help clients consider incentives for younger generations to use their personal and financial resources wisely in positive ways
- Working closely with other advisors, including accountants, financial planners, insurance agents and family offices, for the benefit of clients.
Powers of Attorney and Living Wills
Proper use of powers of attorney, both financial and health care, and living wills can help avoid problems should a person become incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate his or her wishes about these matters. The attorneys at SCA can counsel you with respect to all of these documents, including choice of an agent to help you with these matters and how to avoid problems stemming from choosing the wrong agent. If necessary, we can help you get a guardian and/or conservator appointed.
SCA attorneys provide several services in this area, including:
- Drafting powers of attorney and living wills
- Choice of agent or agents
- Drafting petitions to appoint guardians and/or conservators
Guardianships and Conservatorships
SCA understands that establishing a guardianship or conservatorship is a question many parents or relatives of a person with special needs face. We recognize that safety and dignity are important for individuals with disabilities, whether intellectual, physical, emotional or age-related. We can help you make this decision.
Guardianship and conservatorship of special needs individuals are document-intensive and can involve complex legal issues. If you are named the legal guardian of a family member, or you wish to establish a legal guardianship or conservatorship for one, we can prepare these documents and guide you in all aspects of the proceedings and your duties.
We provide a wide array of services in this area, including:
- Guardianship petitions and hearings (both limited and general)
- Conservatorship petitions, accountings, and hearings
- Special limited transaction conservatorship for purposes of directing inheritances or gifts to a special needs trust
Special Needs Planning
The needs associated with a person with special needs may seem overwhelming. Families with persons who have special needs face several legal and governmental issues, along with the other challenges that such families face. The attorneys at SCA provide services in this area including:
- Counseling to preserve SSI, Medicaid, and other benefits for injured persons.
- Preparing special needs trusts along with wills and other estate planning documents to leave property to a family member without impairing the ability to receive governmental benefits.
- Having guardians and conservators appointed where appropriate.
- Counseling with respect to elder law issues.
At SCA, we help develop a financial plan designed to meet your particular estate planning needs. We take the time to review your goals for any family member, especially those with special needs.
When a family member has special needs, he or she may need more or less than an equal share of the parents’ estates. Often the best way to make that determination is to craft a life-care plan for that family member. A properly designed and administered special needs trust can supplement public benefits without risking eligibility. We will help you safeguard public benefits while allowing you to protect your family member for his or her lifetime.
Attorneys within our Special Needs Planning group provide a wide array of services, including:
- Special needs trusts
- Supplemental Security Income counsel
- Social Security Disability counsel
- Powers of attorney and health care directives
- Re-titling of assets
- Change of beneficiary designations
- Estate tax minimization planning
- Reformation of existing trusts
SCA attorneys understand that aging can bring on many changes and concerns. You may be overwhelmed by the details of creating security for yourself or your loved ones. We’re here to listen and creatively and realistically help you plan for your security.
We provide a wide range of services, including:
- Life care planning, Medicaid/public assistance planning, long-term care options
- Applications and appeals
- Wills, trusts (including administration), powers of attorney, health care directives, tax planning, probate avoidance
- Trusts, guardianships, decedent’s estates, fiduciary tax returns, wrongful death trusts, minor’s settlements
Trust Planning for Life Insurance and Other Assets
It may be advisable for tax and non-tax reasons to hold life insurance and other assets in trust instead of leaving all or part of such assets outright to one or more individuals. While sometimes thought of as being punitive in nature, by leaving assets in a properly structured trust you can put your children and grandchildren, as the beneficiaries of those trusts, in the best position possible with regard to litigants and other creditors.
SCA attorneys can provide many services regarding the use of trusts, including:
- Counsel regarding the beneficial use of trusts
- Planning how to leave your assets to your family members and why
- Drafting trust documents tailored to fit your unique situation
- Drafting trust documents designed to protect assets from all types of creditors and predators, including former spouses
- Providing the maximum available income and transfer tax benefits in a given situation
- Advice regarding choice of trustee
Litigation Involving Probate, Estates, and Trusts
Unfortunately, things can sometimes go wrong in dealing with estates, trusts, and other such matters. The attorneys at SCA can help you deal with these types of matters, whether from the side of the personal representative of an estate, a conservator, a trustee, or any beneficiary of such an estate or trust or interested person in the case of a conservatorship, including the following:
- Will contests.
- Trust contests.
- Will and trust construction and reformation actions.
- Litigation regarding the ownership and use of joint accounts, powers of attorney, and conservatorship matters.
We have dealt with various actions of this type, including those alleging fraud, undue influence and mental capacity, the validity of common law marriages and marital agreements, determinations of heirship, and the validity of beneficiary designations. We also represent corporate and individual fiduciaries, assisting them with all types of trust and estate matters.
We believe our clients’ goals can often be most effectively and efficiently met through effective litigation designed to avoid the courtroom. Often we can negotiate and document settlements that accomplish our clients’ goals without actually visiting the courtroom.
We are well versed in handling all types of real property disputes that seem to pop up in these types of matters, including actions for partition, sales for division, actions to quiet title, foreclosure matters, and other related real estate matters.