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.


How We Can Help You?

Snapshot of Strengths

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


Design custom pension, 401(k), 403(b) and ESOP plans for small, medium and large employers; ensuring tax qualification and compliance


Review and provide advice concerning prototype pension, 401(k) and 403(b) plans provided by banks, insurance companies and other companies


Represent plans in IRS and DOL audits


Assist plans through IRS voluntary correction programs to regain qualified status


Implement welfare benefit plans, including cafeteria plans and voluntary employees' beneficiary associations.


Advise on entity formation choices


Tax consequences


Advanced healthcare directives and durable powers of attorney


Revocable trusts


Irrevocable trusts


Charitable trusts


Life insurance trusts


Probate of wills and estates, and estate administration


Pre- and post-death trust administration


The formation of charitable entities, including private foundations


Family business succession planning

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.


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.


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.

View Representative
  • Provide tax advice and planning to a number of business and non-profit corporations, professional corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and trusts.
  • Provide tax and other legal advice to several local and Southwest Alabama-based foundations, including the formation of foundations, providing advice relating to charitable gifts and donations, and regular advice as general counsel to a foundation having assets of approximately $33 million.
  • Obtain tax-exempt statuses for charitable foundations, and non-profit and governmental health care organizations.
  • Represent taxpayers in tax litigation in United States Tax Court and Federal District Court.
  • Represent clients and provide advice and preparation of documents associated with irrevocable life insurance trusts.
  • Prepare sophisticated and simple wills, powers of attorney and health care advance directives (living wills).
  • Represent clients in post-mortem planning such as qualified disclaimers.
  • Represent clients in probating wills and assist in estate administration and guardian and conservator proceedings.
  • Represent trust departments with regard to their actions as trustees of revocable and irrevocable trusts and as trustees participating in limited partnerships and limited liability companies.
  • Represent clients in providing advice and preparation of documents associated with irrevocable life insurance trusts, including pour-over trusts from wills.
  • Represent clients in the preparation of prenuptial agreements.
  • Represent clients in providing advice on family business succession planning.

What Our Clients are Saying

Brandy Walker

“My husband and I were referred to Johnstone Adams in the spring of last year. We are working very closely with Jessica Welch and Greg Watts on an ongoing and unwanted family estate matter. Ms. Welch and Mr. Watts have been so professional and knowledgeable.

In addition, considering the nature of the suit, Jessica has provided my husband and I with a peace of mind we didn"t think was possible during this extremely stressful time of our lives. She is an amazing trial attorney. They have gone above and beyond. To sum it up, I have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for them. I would strongly reccomend either of them to my dearest friends and family members. I'm so thankful that we stumbled upon them. I'm actually going to miss Jessica Welch when this is all over.”

Andre Kistner

“I am currently using this law firm and they are informative, keeping me up to date with my case, and they return your calls/emails immediately. I am very satisfied.”

Stu Cookson

“My wife and I approached Johnstone Adams to help us make a better informed decision regarding her immigration. They have been a truly invaluable asset. They brought their knowledge, experience, confidence, and calm demeanor to the process, which put our minds at ease. The worry and anxiety that we were facing melted away, and we have been, literally, hand-held during this daunting process. We can’t thank or recommend Johnstone Adams enough and look forward to continuing to use their services in the future.”


Angela R.

“Johnstone Adams was a great help when it came to drawing up our family’s will and advanced directives prior to the birth of our first son. These are certainly things that no one wants to think about, but the process was easy. They were professional and knowledgeable, answering all of our questions along the way with compassion and sensitivity. Johnstone Adams responded quickly to any questions and was easy to get in touch with! We would highly recommend them for any legal work!!”

Alan C

“Jessica’s advice and assistance with our family's interests in a probate matter was exceptional from beginning to end-- always thoughtful, responsive and efficient, and focused and timely.

It was a genuine pleasure for the doubtless incorrigibly demanding old lawyer that I am to have a professional of her outstanding caliber assisting me on this matter—both generally and in my role as executor in particular—in a jurisdiction unfamiliar to me and on a matter completely outside of my own experience and expertise.

I might also point out that she was really excellent in interfacing, always in a timely and solution-oriented manner, with other parties involved in our matter to help keep our initiatives on track—including attorneys dealing with the disposition of residential real estate and financial assets.

Jessica and her excellent assistant, Shelly Perrone, also offered and provided pragmatic and efficient solutions to logistical and execution issues made significantly more challenging than usual given the COVID-19 crisis and my own location far from Mobile-- in Paris, France.”


“I highly recommend attorney Rick La Trace. Aside from being professional, polite, and yet firm, Rick is a combination of knowledge, detail, and responsiveness. (In my opinion, there are very few professionals who have ALL three qualities. Rick is one of the very few.) What makes him stand apart from the rest, is that he takes the time to listen to his client's concerns (no matter how "trivial"). He educates client’s on how the law works, shares his opinions, including the pros and cons of each. We would definitely use Rick's services again, and highly recommend him for anyone who wants a lawyer that they can trust to thoroughly handle their case from start to finish, even down to the small details. You can tell from working with Rick that he's not just about getting paid for his services, but that he enjoys working through problems and finding creative solutions for his clients. Also, I highly recommend the Johnstone Adams, LLC systems and processes. Shelly and Cathy were on top of things. I give Rick and Johnstone Adams more than five stars.”


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