Trusts & Estates Planning

The Trusts and Estates Group at McLane Middleton is designed to meet all of your estate planning needs. Our goal is to work with you to devise an estate plan that works for you and to implement the plan in a manner that minimizes administrative costs and taxes.

Estate planning begins with an examination of your personal objectives and the preparation of legal documents that direct the disposition of your property in anticipation of death. These documents may include a will, trust agreement, durable general power of attorney, durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. Estate tax planning strategies appropriate to your needs will be explained for your consideration.

Estate or probate administration may be needed to implement the estate plan you have created. If you have signed a will, it will be filed with the probate court. If you have not completed an estate plan, your property will pass to your heirs in accordance with New Hampshire law in a process known as intestate distribution. In either case, we can assist your personal representative in the probate court procedure and in the administration of your assets.

This process may include the:

  • Appointment of your personal representative;
  • Collection and safeguarding of your assets;
  • Sale of your real or personal property, as needed;
  • Payment of your debts;
  • Settlement of all claims against your estate;
  • Preparation of probate court petitions and accounts;
  • Valuation and inventory of your property;
  • Preparation of all required income and wealth transfer tax returns; and
  • Distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries or heirs.

Non-probate assets may also require special attention. We can help your family and friends transfer property that is not governed by your will or probate court jurisdiction according to your wishes. The areas in which we can help include:

  • Jointly held property;
  • Life insurance proceeds;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Employee death benefits; and
  • Trust property.

Trust administration of revocable or irrevocable trusts may be handled by our team of attorneys, administrators and operation assistants. With a fully automated system for asset management, we provide up-to-the-minute reports on asset valuation and income, enabling the trustee of your choice to meet your investment and dispositive goals.

Fiduciary services are also available if your circumstances warrant the personal services of a trust and estate attorney, after consideration of your other alternatives. Upon request, we will serve in a wide range of fiduciary capacities, such as:

  • Executor;
  • Administrator;
  • Trustee;
  • Professional Licensing;
  • Medicaid Protection and Special Needs Trusts; and
  • Admiralty and Maritime Law.

Confidential Client Data Sheet
For the firm’s Confidential Client Data Sheet, click here.

Estate Tax Planning

Our trust and estate attorneys work with you to develop an estate plan goal by minimizing the federal and state taxes that apply to the transfer of assets. Without this planning, a substantial portion of your property can be lost to taxes and administrative costs. We help to preserve this property for the individuals and organizations you most wish to benefit.

We begin with an examination of your personal desires in anticipation of death. Do you wish to provide for your spouse and children? Are your children mature enough to manage significant funds? Do you want to be certain that sufficient funds will be available for the education of your children? What if your spouse remarries? Do you want to shelter funds from loss through poor investments, divorce or creditors’ claims? We work with individuals who have no families to be certain the organizations or individuals they wish to benefit are also protected.

We then advance alternative methods of achieving your personal goals while minimizing the impact of transfer taxes, probate, and administrative costs.

This planning could include:

  • Lifetime gifts to take advantage of the $17,000 annual gift tax exclusion and to transfer future income and appreciation out of your estate;
  • Wills to transfer your property at death to your intended beneficiaries or to a trust for their benefit.
  • Revocable lifetime trusts to minimize probate administrative costs and to preserve property from a second tax upon the death of a beneficiary.
  • Irrevocable trusts to preserve life-time gifts for the later benefit of spouses, children and grandchildren, or to gain a charitable deduction. We estimate the impact of all applicable state and federal transfer taxes and anticipate the source for payment of these taxes:
  • Federal gift and estate taxes are set at a top rate of 40 percent, after taking into consideration the amount that may pass free of tax.
  • Federal generation skipping transfer taxes, if applicable, are set at 40 percent after payment of estate and gift taxes on the same transfer.
  • Income tax will generally be imposed on income items.

As you can see, the combined effect of these taxes can be substantial.

Special estate planning techniques are recommended for certain individuals. This special planning may include:

  • Closely held businesses that require examination of stockholder agreements, stock redemptions to pay taxes or to provide funds for the benefit of family, qualified subchapter S trusts and deferral of estate tax payments.
  • Resident alien spouses will need a qualified domestic trust.
  • Life insurance may be needed to provide a source of funds for payment of taxes, debts, expenses or desired gifts.
  • Personal residences offer special planning opportunities for reducing transfer taxes.

The development of a typical estate plan will involve several discussions and correspondence between you and our attorneys to assure that your desired goals are implemented. The estate plan should remain flexible and adaptable to your future needs. Accordingly, the plan should be reviewed periodically as your family situation and tax laws change.

Members of our Trust and Estate Planning Department are fellows of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).


For additional information, contact Ryan Swartz, chair of the firm's Trusts and Estates Department.