The University of Miami School of Law recently completed its presentation of the 47th Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. The Institute, which has been held in Orlando for the last several years is the nation’s leading conference for estate planners. Thousands of attorneys, CPAs, and other professionals from all over the country were in attendance.
The Institute featured presentations by leading national experts on a variety of estate planning topics. Many of these experts call South Florida home or are adjunct faculty in the University of Miami School of Law’s graduate program in estate planning.
Reducing the Impact of Income Taxes on the Estate Plan
Among the many interesting presentations from this five-day program, a few stood out as being particularly insightful. Attorney Barbara Sloan of McLaughlin & Stern LLP in New York presented on “Spousal Transfers.” Ms. Sloan explained that recent tax developments – primarily the “permanent” five million (plus inflation adjustments) applicable exclusion amount and the portability of that exclusion amount between spouses – have changed the conventional estate planning wisdom in a number of ways. Sophisticated estate planners can now create more flexible structures in order to reduce the impact of income taxes on the estate plan while maximizing creditor protection and minimizing estate taxes. The unavoidable corollary to this conclusion is that many existing estate plans, even those entered into in the last few years, can now be improved upon. In many cases, complex plans that were entered into for purely estate tax savings reasons can be substantially simplified.
Family Business Succession Planning
Attorney Louis A. Mezzullo of Rancho Santa Fe, California, tackled the always-challenging topic of Family Business Succession Planning. Mr. Mezzullo covered many of the standard estate tax planning strategies in this area, including use of ESOPs, sales to grantor trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, and use of life insurance. Mr. Mezzullo’s presentation provided a welcome refresher on the various tools available to clients and their advisors. He also discussed family and ethical issues that can act as obstacles to meeting the client’s goals.
While South Florida is often better known for its world class commerce, events like the Heckerling Institute continue to highlight the intellectual and academic leadership in the field of estate planning as well.