[Attorneys who practice in
Trusts, and Estates
Wills, Trusts, and Estates group is led by senior partner, Paul
H. Burnham. He is assisted by his partner, Glen J. Moore, and Ian
R. Crawford and Robert A. Singewald, who are "of counsel", and, with respect
to certain probate litigation matters, partner Mark
R. Carta. While each client will have a primary relationship
with one particular attorney, other members of the group are
always available for support. Every significant document recommended
to a client for signature will be reviewed by more than one
We are dedicated to providing top quality service to our clients,
and are pleased to meet with clients at any time at their convenience,
whether within or outside normal office hours, and whether in
the firm's offices or not. There is no minimum lead time before
a meeting can be scheduled. All telephone calls are returned
The group's practice can be divided into four areas: wills and
estate planning, including all aspects of "elder law",
the representation of the fiduciaries of decedent's estates,
the representation of trustees and other fiduciaries (such as
conservators and guardians), and the representation of beneficiaries
in contested probate matters. In addition, there is significant
interaction with the Business Practice Group in corporate succession
Wills and Estate Planning
The group's approach is to identify and analyze three elements
in our clients' estate plans. The first is the drawing of documents
intended to take effect at death which set forth the client's
wishes as to the disposition of his or her assets at that time.
The second involves the determination of the best way to title
assets and name beneficiaries so as to achieve the client's
objectives. The third is to determine the extent, if any, that
lifetime gifting will assist the client with achieving his or
Some of the firm's clients have situations so simple that only
the first element is relevant, but in most cases all three elements
need to be considered. We have prepared plans for individuals
with estates exceeding $50,000,000, but certainly give to each
client the care and individual attention his or her own situation
requires. We will render estate planning services for anyone,
regardless of the size or type of assets.
We seek always to work with the client to determine what the
client wants, and to find the way to achieve the client's objectives
in the manner most comfortable for the client. We stress planning
mechanisms that cause the client the least possible aggravation
and which allow the greatest possible flexibility in implementation,
without jeopardizing the objectives of the plan. We try to develop
strategies which maximize tax savings while minimizing the client
transaction and administrative costs.
It is important to recognize that one's estate plan should be
comprised of more than just a will and related trust instruments.
Clients need to be advised in the preparation of documents appointing
health care agents, powers of attorney, and conservators. We
prepare these documents for our clients as part of their estate
"Elder law" represents a growing part of our practice.
We recognize the need for assisting our clients in planning
for their future incapacity and in assisted living arrangements,
whether in or outside of the home. We review their estate tax
planning and long term care needs and assist clients by familiarizing
them with the requirements surrounding Medicaid, Medicare and
Social Security. We work closely with financial planners, accountants
and insurance agents to provide an integrated approach.
Our Estate Planning Group is extremely conversant with Connecticut
probate court procedure and with most of the probate judges
in lower Fairfield County. Our attorneys appear before these
probate judges on a regular basis and have extensive hearing
experience. Many of the estates we handle are of a size where
a federal estate tax return is required. Through group member,
Ian Crawford, we represent the fiduciaries of several New York
estates. From time to time we assist Connecticut residents who
are named fiduciaries in other jurisdictions, although always
with the assistance of attorneys licensed to practice in such
We recognize that there is the element of grief in every decedent's
estate administration. Clients are treated with the utmost respect
and empathy throughout the course of the representation. In
most situations the fiduciary is a surviving family member;
it is sometimes therapeutic for the fiduciary to handle various
items of the administration, but in other cases the fiduciary
turns to us to handle virtually all matters.
We have developed significant expertise in post-mortem planning,
for the purpose of saving taxes as well as for the ultimate
distribution of estate assets. Situations have developed where
trusts funded through the death of one family member have been
used in such a way as to achieve the long term aims of the survivors.
Such aims may not have been contemplated at the time the wills
and trusts were drawn but which, due to the flexibility incorporated
within these documents, have been possible to implement.
Trusts and Other Fiduciaries
The firm represents a significant number of trusts and trustees
of funded trusts. Services rendered include tax advice and tax
return preparation, as well as general administration advice,
including assisting with the fulfillment of all reporting requirements.
While the firm does not provide investment advice, it has contacts
with competent professionals who do. Further, a trust may play
a role in the family financial plan as a business partner, real
property owner, or lender. We are well versed in the not-always-obvious
planning opportunities funded trusts provide.
We have set up several complex gifting plans for our clients,
some of which involve family limited and general partnerships,
which have in some cases included trusts. These include grantor
remainder trusts, qualified personal residence trusts (qprt),
charitable remainder trusts (crat, crut), charitable lead trusts,
and private foundations, many of which are presently funded.
We have represented guardians, conservators, custodians and
other fiduciaries, both in the planning stage and in connection
with contested matters.
Representation of Beneficiaries in
Our firm has also experienced significant growth in helping
clients who seek to challenge the conduct of fiduciaries. The
forum can vary - most often these challenges are raised in the
local probate court, but sometimes in the state court system.
Group member, Mark Carta, who doubles as the firm's senior litigator,
has extensive experience in this area, and is called in whenever
necessary, although other group members are able to handle the
more routine disagreements. Current matters of this nature now
pending include a situation where a corporate trustee retained
its own stock in the trust, to the substantial detriment of
the beneficiaries, and a situation where the fiduciary distributed
funds to herself, rather than to the trust which was entitled
to receive these funds.
Business Succession Planning
Without a doubt the most rewarding service a trusts and estates
lawyer can provide is to see a family business through a transition
from one generation to the next. Lawyers practicing in this
area have the expertise to obtain these results. The group members
work closely with attorneys in the firm's Business Practice
Group. Cross purchase agreements, buy-sell agreements, and corporate
employment agreements are reviewed by our lawyers whenever possible
to ensure that they dovetail with existing estate planning,
or to determine if they warrant the revising of existing wills
Please read Paul Burnham's article "It
may be time to review your Estate Plan" in the Articles
section of our website.
Attorneys who practice
in this area: