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Highly skilled lawyers with big firm experience.

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Catering to investors, business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs.

For a family grieving the loss of a loved one, having to simultaneously deal with the difficulties of administering an estate can be a trying and frustrating experience. We understand how difficult it is to suffer a loss and immediately be thrust into a complex and unfamiliar legal world. 

The personal representative named by the decedent and appointed by the Probate Court is responsible for overseeing the estate administration process. The personal representative’s duties encompass a broad spectrum of obligations, including providing appropriate notice to interested  parties, marshalling, managing and preserving assets during the estate’s administration,  determining the identity of and paying creditors, communicating with beneficiaries, filing estate tax and income tax returns as needed or advisable, as well as making sure that all taxes due are timely paid by the estate. 

Most people will serve in the role of personal representative only once, yet the duties – as well as the potential liabilities – are great. The personal representative will need guidance in making the decisions necessary to ensure that the estate is administered in accordance with applicable law and the decedent’s wishes. We help you understand what serving as a personal representative entails and your obligations to the deceased and to the estate’s beneficiaries. Through our lawyers and very experienced paralegals, we assist you in navigating and completing the steps necessary to move through the estate administration process as quickly and effectively as possible. 

In addition, we also provide legal assistance to heirs, family members and other interested parties  during the estate administration process.

Our Services Include:

  • Probate administration on behalf of  the personal representative of Florida  estates 
  • Preparing federal estate tax returns  (including returns for non-U.S.  residents) 
  • Fiduciary tax planning for estates Caveat proceedings 
  • Representing estate beneficiaries Analyzing homestead and spousal  elective share issues 
  • Ancillary administration of estates of  non-Florida and non-U.S. residents  who had property in Florida 
  • Representing estates in IRS audits and appeals
  • Preparing fiduciary accountings 
  • Filing claims against estates on behalf  of creditors and beneficiaries 
  • Post-mortem estate planning 
  • Dealing with claims made against the estate

Whether becoming a trustee after the death of a loved one or upon the resignation of a currently serving trustee, assuming the position of trustee is a significant undertaking not to be taken lightly.  A trustee is a fiduciary and has a duty to act with strict honesty and loyalty for the benefit of all beneficiaries of a trust as to all matters within the scope of the relationship. 

The duties of a trustee may vary significantly depending on the instructions contained in the trust agreement. Generally, the trustee’s job includes: identifying and sending notice to the  beneficiaries; identifying, taking possession of, and protecting the property comprising the trust;  understanding what the trust requires the trustee to do, how to perform, and when to act; always 

acting in a fiduciary capacity by being scrupulously honest, acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries, and not favoring the trustee’s self-interest; communicating with beneficiaries;  complying with numerous legal and tax requirements; and administering and ending the trust according to the requirements specified by the trust agreement and applicable law.  

Trust administration is neither an easy nor straightforward process and is fraught with potential liability to the uninformed trustee. The trustee will need guidance in making the decisions necessary to ensure that the trust is administered in accordance with the law and the requirements of the trust agreement. We help you understand what serving as a trustee entails and provide you with sound advice to ensure accurate and complete compliance with all aspects of trust administration. We assist trustees with trust modifications, reformations and decantings, as well as with accountings, tax reporting and other obligations. 

In situations where we are not representing the trustee of a trust, we provide legal assistance to beneficiaries and other interested parties during the trust administration process. If you believe a trust agreement is not valid or if you are concerned that a trustee is not fulfilling his or her responsibilities or is mismanaging the affairs of the trust, we can help. 

Our Services Include:

  • Representing trustees in properly administering trusts on behalf of the beneficiaries
  • Modifying, amending, merging or decanting trusts 
  • Fiduciary tax planning for trusts 
  • Assisting with trustee succession matters 
  • Representing trust beneficiaries 
  • Tax compliance 
  • Advising trustees of their fiduciary obligations 
  • Representing trusts in IRS audits and appeals 
  • Preparing fiduciary accountings 
  • Pursuing claims against trustees on behalf of beneficiaries

We assist international families in a wide variety of matters.  

Pre-Immigration Tax Planning  

For wealthy foreign individuals who are immigrating to the United States, or who plan to work in the United States for a number of years before returning to their home country, it is important to engage in U.S. tax planning before moving to the United States. We work with clients to minimize the federal income, gift and estate tax consequences of establishing residency or domicile in the  United States.  

Foreign Investment in U.S. Real Property 

Many foreign investors have taken advantage of the stability of the U.S. housing market to purchase vacation residences and investment properties here in Florida. Unfortunately, ownership of U.S. real property by an individual who is not “domiciled” within the United States can have disastrous tax consequences when the owner transfers the property, or dies owning the property.  Unfortunately, once you have purchased the property, your options for avoiding those tax consequences are limited. We assist foreign investors in structuring the acquisition of real property in order to minimize the federal income, gift and estate tax consequences of such ownership.  

Foreign Trust and Foundation Planning  

Wealthy multinational families use foreign trusts, foundations and companies for a variety of wealth planning and preservation purposes. Foreign trusts and foundations can serve as tax efficient structures to pass wealth from foreign parents to their children and other descendants who are resident in the United States. If properly structured, the U.S. resident beneficiary will not be subject to income tax during the lifetime of the foreign settlor or founder, and the trust or foundation will never be subject to U.S. gift, estate or generation-skipping transfer tax.  

Unfortunately, many foreign families fail to consider how a trust or foundation’s connections with the United States (such as a child who lives in the United States, or the ownership of real property located within the United States) may affect the U.S. tax obligations of the entity and its beneficiaries.  

Our experienced attorneys assist in structuring such foreign entities so that they operate in a tax efficient manner and that applicable U.S. tax obligations will be met. We also review existing structures for compliance with U.S. tax law. 

Our Services Include:

  • Pre-immigration tax planning 
  • Estate planning  
  • Advising both individual and institutional  fiduciaries of foreign entities as to their U.S. tax and reporting obligations
  • Foreign investment in U.S. real property 
  • Planning with foreign trusts and foreign  foundations, including planning with  trusts established in the U.S. that are  treated as foreign trusts for United States  tax purposes  
  • Advising as to U.S. tax compliance and  reporting issues, including making a voluntary disclosure to the IRS 
  • Representation before the Internal  Revenue Service 
  • Probate administration and tax compliance for the estates of foreign decedents owning property in the U.S. 
  • Compliance with FIRPTA – the Foreign  Investment in Real Property Tax Act

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society
Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice 

Most Americans try their best to comply with their U.S. tax reporting and payment requirements.  But the tax laws are complex, and even the most diligent of us can make mistakes. Additionally,  unexpected changes in health, employment or family status can make tax compliance a struggle. 

For Americans with foreign investments, and for foreign individuals with investments in the  United States, perfect tax compliance can seem almost impossible, and the penalties for failure arbitrary and severe.  

We encourage clients to contact us at the earliest possible stage of a potential tax controversy – preferably as soon as the first IRS letter or notice is received. While in many cases we interact directly with the IRS, we frequently work collaboratively with our clients’ existing accountants or tax advisors who then communicate with the IRS. And, if you haven’t filed income tax returns or reported foreign accounts and other assets, we can help you sleep at night by taking advantage of the IRS’s voluntary disclosure programs. 

Our Services Include:

  • Audits of complex income tax issues Underreported income 
  • Victims of tax identity theft Innocent spouse relief 
  • Employment taxes, including trust  fund recovery penalties (also known  as “responsible person” or “6672”  penalties) 
  • Consulting with CPAs and other tax  advisors 
  • Audit of filed estate and gift tax  returns 
  • Failure to report foreign investments  or foreign ownership of U.S.  investments, including Forms 5471,  5472, 8621, 8938, and FinCEN Form  114a (FBARs) 
  • Failure to report foreign gifts and  inheritances, and transactions with  foreign trusts, including Forms 3520  and 3520-A 
  • Obtaining refunds of taxes withheld  under the Foreign Investment in Real  Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) 
  • Voluntary Disclosures

The issues that face today’s businesses (including commercial or professional) are as complex and nuanced as the individuals who run them. At Cohen, Chase, Hoffman & Schimmel, P.A., we work hard to get to know our clients and their businesses so we can adroitly render advice on all aspects of the business’s life cycle. From formation to operation, and to eventual exit, we combine our in depth knowledge of Florida business law with our tax expertise to help businesses succeed, and to help the people who own them prosper. 

We have had the pleasure of working with a variety of companies, both large, small and in-between, spanning a wide array of industries and specialties, including retail, manufacturing, distribution, construction, real estate and hospitality among others. Personal service businesses and professions are areas in which we have spent a great deal of time and attention. We have represented doctors, lawyers, architects, accountants and other professionals for many years and with great success. We understand that there are few things in life in which you invest more time, energy and heart than your business. We approach your business issues with the same diligence, dedication and attention to detail that you do. 

Each owner’s and each business’s situation is unique, which is why an experienced attorney is critically important. Whether you are thinking of forming a new business or professional practice, expanding your current business, or plan to sell your business or transition it to the next generation, we can help. Our extensive background in tax and estate planning makes us uniquely qualified to help you approach your business or professional matters in a comprehensive and holistic manner. 

Our Services Include:

  • Analyzing the most appropriate form of entity for your business or professional practice to meet your personal goals 
  • Forming business and professional entities, including drafting governing instruments such as joint venture, partnership, shareholder and operating agreements and by-laws 
  • Serving as registered agent 
  • Reviewing existing governing documents for tax and business efficacy, and recommending changes or restructuring 
  • Advising and handling mergers, acquisitions, conversions, divisions and domestications 
  • Acting as general business and tax counsel • Governance matters 
  • Structuring allocations of income/loss and distribution of cash flow to achieve investor objectives and conform to federal tax law 
  • Advising in connection with the sale, divestiture or liquidation of a part or all of a business 
  • Reviewing leases and other business contracts 
  • Ownership succession planning • Integrating business, tax and estate planning objectives 
  • Reviewing and drafting confidentiality, employment and non-compete agreements • Advising and transferring ownership interests, to both new and existing owners 

A prenuptial or premarital agreement is a contract made between two people who are contemplating marriage, which becomes effective upon solemnizing the marriage in order to change the regular state law rules that would otherwise apply to married couples. These agreements are broad and typically address the financial aspects of marriage, including payment of alimony, division of property in case of divorce and what occurs on the death of the first spouse. There are numerous reasons why it is beneficial to have a prenuptial agreement, but it is crucial to have the agreement prepared by an experienced attorney. The technical requirements for a successful agreement are extensive and dictate that we be diligent and careful in preparation and implementation. The attorneys at Cohen, Chase, Hoffman & Schimmel, P.A. have helped clients create prenuptial agreements that are valid, enforceable and reflect their needs and interests.  

Nobody enters into a marriage expecting to have it end in divorce, and asking for a prenuptial agreement, which sounds like you are focusing on divorce instead of the upcoming nuptials, can seem distasteful. However, the fact is that many marriages end in divorce. Having a prenuptial agreement in place can ease anxiety and uncertainty, and help couples enter into the marriage feeling more secure with each other. For instance, arguments over money are a leading cause of divorce, but a prenuptial agreement allows the couple to enter the marriage with their eyes wide open about the assets, debts and finances each spouse is bringing into the marriage.  

A prenuptial agreement can benefit any couple, but is most often utilized where there is a large disparity in wealth or earning power between the spouses, or where one or both members of the couple come from a wealthy family. A prenuptial agreement can help both spouses to become comfortable that they will not be taken advantage of in a divorce or on death. Prenuptial agreements are also popular with people who have previously been married and divorced in the past, and do not wish to repeat the experience of a costly, emotional court battle. When a prenuptial agreement is in place, any divorce that does occur will likely be less expensive, faster, and less emotionally-charged than if there were no agreement.  

In addition to addressing alimony and the division of marital and separate property on divorce, a prenuptial agreement may also address the making of wills or the right of a spouse to choose an elective share of the estate and it may also address the impact of family wealth and future inheritances.  

Planning for and implementing a prenuptial agreement can be stressful and can become unpleasant. We are extremely sensitive to this and are careful to work compassionately with our clients and their intended spouses.  

Postnuptial Agreements in Florida  

A postnuptial agreement is a contract made between two people who are already married. Often, the same subjects that would be addressed in a prenuptial agreement are addressed in a postnuptial agreement. The reasons that people enter into a postnuptial agreement vary. Sometimes, couples that already have a prenuptial agreement want to modify or add additional terms and provisions. Other times, couples conclude that in order for their marriage to move forward and continue, certain rights upon divorce or death need to be established through a postnuptial agreement.  

With a strong background and pre-existing understanding of estates, trusts, and estate and asset protection planning, the skills necessary to understand marital arrangements, Cohen, Chase, Hoffman & Schimmel, P.A. is an excellent choice to assist and counsel you on Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements. 

Hand in hand with sophisticated estate planning, Cohen, Chase, Hoffman & Schimmel’s attorneys work carefully with clients to make them aware of the risks to which they and their accumulated assets are subject and to plan the manner in which your assets and your family’s wealth can be protected from judgment creditors. Clients who are in a high-risk profession or are serving on the board of directors of a company are acutely aware of their potential to be named as defendants in a lawsuit, but all clients have a certain degree of risk to which they are subject. Our approach to asset protection and wealth preservation planning is to work with the client from the bottom up to make them aware of their exposures and to protect their assets in a manner in which they are comfortable and which is consistent with all applicable law.  

Wealth preservation planning involves an analysis of your particular exposure to the claims of creditors, the assets which you own and how title is held within your family, as well as the use of entities such as limited partnerships and trusts as necessary to obtain a higher degree of protection. It is an overall strategy which should be integrated with the client’s estate plan. While there is no magic bullet that can give everyone absolute protection for all of their assets, wealth preservation planning involves a series of steps taken to provide as much protection as possible. Each step must be completed within the confines of law and should be addressed long before the actual threat of a lawsuit or claim is on the horizon.  

Insurance protection is an important component, but is often inadequate to fully protect a client. Taking insurance into account, we can develop a customized wealth preservation plan to secure your assets from the claims of creditors and make it work as part of your estate plan and your life style.  

Your planning should start with the many protections offered under Florida law to its residents, including homestead real property, qualified pension and retirement plans, qualified tuition programs, annuities, cash value life insurance, wage accounts, life insurance and social security benefits. For those requiring further planning, there are numerous trusts which spouses can create for each other and which family members can create for other family members which provide significant spendthrift protection and often involve sophisticated estate planning expertise as well. Further, limited partnerships, LLCs and corporations all should be analyzed with an eye toward their tax implications as well as their asset protection benefits. Only a lawyer skilled in all of these different disciplines can adequately protect those in need of assistance.  

For those clients requiring an even higher level of asset protection, trusts created in other jurisdictions of the United States, known as domestic asset protection trusts, can offer extremely valuable protection. Finally, a foreign asset protection trust is another area where an even higher level of protection (accompanied by a higher level of complexity) can be attained. 

The lawyers at Cohen, Chase, Hoffman & Schimmel, P.A., take the time to learn about you and your family, as well as your financial situation. We have represented individuals and their families, both foreign and domestic, for decades, having prepared tax sensitive estate plans for multiple generations, as their family wealth and businesses have passed from parents to children to grandchildren. Our goals are to minimize your family’s income, estate and gift tax burden, and never to allow taxes to become the tail that “wags the dog.” Your goals and objectives are of primary importance.  

Each family’s situation is unique, which is why an experienced estate and gift tax planning attorney is critically important to you. Whether you have a “traditional” family, a blended family with children from multiple marriages, or if you are unmarried, our lawyers can help you establish a comprehensive and effective plan that meets your personal needs in the most tax-efficient way possible.  

Our Services Include:

  • Traditional estate planning – wills, trusts (revocable and irrevocable as the situation requires)  
  • Durable powers of attorney, health care surrogate designations and living will declarations 
  • Business succession planning 
  • Wealth preservation planning 
  • Planning for IRA and retirement plan distributions 
  • Planning for multiple generations • Trusts for health and education expenses 
  • Special purpose trusts 
  • Dynasty trusts 
  • Residence and homestead trusts • Gun trusts 
  • Pet trusts  
  • Charitable split-interest trusts 
  • Private foundations and other charitable giving techniques 
  • Lifetime gifting strategies 
  • Preparing estate and gift tax returns • Life insurance planning 
  • Charitable giving 

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