Practice Areas

Tax, Trusts and Estate Planning

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. ~ Tom Landry

Planning is the vital ingredient for success in benefits, tax, trusts and estate law.  Our lawyers in this practice area hold advanced taxation degrees and are skilled in assisting businesses, trustees and individuals in their ERISA, tax, trust and estates matters.

Our retirement plan services include designing custom pension, 401(k), 403(b) and ESOP plans for small, medium and large employers as well as reviewing prototype plans; obtaining IRS determination letters on plan qualification, ensuring compliance; advising administrators and trustees on IRS and ERISA issues; representing plans in IRS and DOL audits; assisting plans through IRS voluntary correction programs to regain qualified status; and merging or terminating plans.  We also implement welfare benefit plans, including cafeteria plans.  For our business clients, we provide advice about entity formation choices, business acquisitions and sales, as well as the tax and legal issues associated with acquiring, owning and selling business assets.  We regularly advise our healthcare clients on tax matters, including obtaining and protecting 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. 

Our estate planning attorneys provide skilled assistance to clients with estates of all sizes at reasonable rates.  With people living longer than ever, forward-looking and innovative planning has never been more important.  Our attorneys are skilled at creating wills, advanced healthcare directives, durable powers of attorney and trusts.  Our experience includes specialized trusts, such as revocable trusts, charitable trusts and life insurance trusts, for family tax and business succession planning.  We assist with the probate process and pre- and post-death trust administration.  We also assist clients who wish to form charitable entities, including private foundations.  Our clients include non-profit organizations and charitable foundations.

Snapshot of Strengths

Our benefits, tax, trusts and estate planning experience includes:

Featured Client Stories

Estate Planning for Family Discord 

Our client was a wealthy but elderly widow.  During her lifetime, she and her late husband had managed to accumulate 360 acres of rural Alabama property.  When oil was discovered in the vicinity, her wealth increased exponentially, and she recognized that she needed an estate plan that would reduce potential discord between her five surviving children and provide adequately for her grandchildren by one child that predeceased her.

Johnstone Adams approach and solution: After meeting with the client at length to discuss her family situation and analyze all of the real estate, investments and mineral interests in her estate, Johnstone Adams attorneys recommended that she set up a revocable trust with a corporate trustee that would provide an impartial party to assist her with managing her assets during her lifetime and to divide her assets among her potentially fractious descendants after her death.  The revocable trust contained specific provisions dividing her assets in equal shares among her surviving children and the children of her predeceased child, including specific division of her real estate.  Our attorneys also worked with a surveyor to divide her realty into specific shares, making sure that each new potential landowner had appropriate easements to access their respective properties across the lands being devised to others.

Outcome: For the remainder of her life, the client was quite happy with the management of her assets by the corporate trustee.  After her death, the corporate trustee continued to administer the revocable trust as an impartial fiduciary and distributed the trust assets according to the specific directions of the trust.  Although some of the trust beneficiaries were not happy with the plan, the plan was not challenged and the trust was terminated without litigation.


Corporate Succession Planning Using an ESOP

The majority shareholder of a local pressure vessel manufacturing company desired to increase the liquidity of his estate to increase his potential income during his lifetime and to provide for potential ownership of part of all of his company by his employees after his death.

Johnstone Adams approach and solution: After meeting with the client, his children, and officers of the company, and after reviewing the company’s financial data, Johnstone Adams attorneys proposed the formation of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that would commence purchasing the stock of the corporation from the company’s shareholders.  Over a period of time, the ESOP acquired 30% of the outstanding company stock, affording the majority shareholder the opportunity to rollover the sales proceeds tax free into a diversified portfolio of publicly traded corporate stocks that provided dividend income.

Outcome: After the death of the majority shareholder, the ESOP acquired all of the outstanding stock of the corporation.  After a period of time in which the corporation was operated by a management committee of employees, the corporation was sold to a group of independent investors and the ESOP was terminated, yielding substantial retirement benefits to the ESOP participants.  The corporation continues to operate today, and Johnstone Adams’ representation of the corporation continues.

Next Steps

Whether you are an owner in need of a benefits game plan or strategy for your tax matters, a non-profit searching for a road map, a trustee preparing the way for fund growth, or an individual in need of a blueprint for your estate disposition, Johnstone Adams ERISA, tax, trusts and estate attorneys have the breadth and depth of knowledge to achieve your future goals.  These attorneys collectively have more than 100 years of experience in this arena, meaning they are familiar with the most sophisticated and challenging of issues.  Call upon our attorneys in this practice area for help from skilled advocates who truly care about your needs in creating, maintaining and achieving your future ERISA, tax, trusts and estates plans and goals.

Practice Group Attorneys

Charles Bailey
Spencer Larche
E. Watson Smith
R. Gregory Watts
Jessica Welch