TAX, TRUSTS, AND ESTATES
Our Tax, Trusts, and Estates Group is nationally recognized for its depth of knowledge and level of experience in estate planning for individuals and entrepreneurs.
Our clients each have a unique success story that presents distinct estate and business planning challenges. With our integrated approach to estate/tax planning, business planning, and charitable planning, we help our clients manage and overcome these challenges. We become a part of our clients’ success stories.
We give success stories
the joyful finales
Foundational Estate Planning
Our Estate Planning Group focuses on assisting clients with “foundational” estate planning. At its most fundamental level, this includes the preparation of a revocable living trust, wills, general durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, and a number of other supporting estate planning documents. But Brown & Streza takes a different approach than most other firms to its foundational estate planning practice. It is an “ordinary” part of our practice that we strive to do extraordinarily well - and for good reason. For many, a person’s foundational estate plan constitutes the largest transaction of their lifetime, effectively transferring most everything they own to their loved ones or charity. For this reason, Brown & Streza takes great care in thoroughly analyzing each client’s unique circumstances, counseling clients on the pros and cons of different decision points, and drafting clear, concise documents. Our goal is to produce a result for our clients that protects their intentions and helps them to feel a sense of peace that they are providing for their loved ones and/or charity in a meaningful and productive way when they are gone.
While the estate planning industry, as a whole, has become increasingly commodified and adopted a cookie-cutter approach to planning, Brown & Streza’s estate planning practice stands out as one that takes a more thoughtful and considered approach.
What It Is
With wealth comes a cross-section of business, tax, trust, estate, and charitable issues. These may include protecting key assets, preserving wealth, minimizing income, gift, and estate taxes, effecting successful business succession, and ensuring a family wealth legacy for generations. For over 40 years, we have helped some of California’s most successful individuals, families, entrepreneurs, and business-owners identify their priority needs and goals and seize their unique opportunities.
No two individuals, families, or businesses are the same. Our process begins by learning about you and your unique facts. We bring our considerable experience to identifying potential solutions to accomplish your goals. We complete the necessary diligence with you and your other advisors and settle in on the best solutions for your priorities. We then implement those solutions with you and your CPA and trustee to ensure long-term success. If you desire, we meet with you and your advisors regularly to maintain and update your planning for any changes in your needs, goals, and new opportunities.
Trust and Estate Administration
Our Trust and Estate Administration Department provides complete legal and tax advice to trustees, executors, and personal representatives. The team utilizes experience and in-depth knowledge in working with complicated estate administration issues. Our services include:
Preparation of estate tax returns
Preparation of gift tax returns
Assistance with collecting and valuing trust and estate assets
Preparation of trust asset allocations
Preparation of subtrust funding documents
Preparation of trust accountings
Coordination of tax matters with accountants and other tax advisors
Probate and court petitions related to disposition of assets
Court matters involving trust interpretation or modification
Representation of clients in audits of estate tax and gift tax returns
The estate administration process can be overwhelming. Our Estate Administration Department will assist and counsel you during this difficult and complex time. Upon completion of the administration, the Estate Administration Department also works with the Estate Planning and Business Departments to counsel surviving spouses and other beneficiaries on estate planning and business succession strategies.
Federal & State Income Tax Audits & Appeals
The IRS has announced recent plans to target high net worth individuals for thorough income tax audits. The California Franchise Tax Board (“FTB”) is aggressively targeting individuals who claim to have changed their California residence. For example, many people believe they can avoid California tax by staying out of California for “six months and a day.” This is not true. The right way to minimize California income tax is to consider three factors—the residency rules, domicile rules, and source of income rules.
The FTB also targets certain other transactions, including aggressively trying to disqualify tax deferred exchanges. Due to fiscal and political pressure, IRS and FTB audit budgets are increasing. And practically, the same fiscal and political pressure cause both the IRS and the FTB to take whatever position results in the highest tax.
In some cases, such as exiting California, you have the advantage of knowing in advance the factors you will need to win. Our experience can help you document and plan for a future audit so you are in the strongest position. For example, there are several residency “audit triggers.” One of the biggest is moving just before a large liquidity event. If you anticipate such an event, the sooner you move before the event, the better.
Brown and Streza attorneys are experienced in achieving the favorable resolution of civil tax controversies and disputes with federal and state tax authorities. There are multiple administrative venues in which certain issues which can’t be resolved at the audit level can be successfully won. Brown and Streza has successfully resolved complex, high dollar federal and state tax disputes for its clients.
We work along with your CPA or tax preparer so the issues and risks are understood and addressed before the audit starts. We help you establish the strongest record in case administrative appeals or even litigation are needed to win. If we’re not involved with the audit, we can help you assess the result and see if an appeal is warranted. And based on our experience (including involvement in several high profile cases against the FTB where our clients were granted attorneys’ fees), we will advise you about the risks, costs, and benefits at every stage of an audit or appeal.