Case Study: Estate Planning

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Sometimes, families don’t know that they have an estate tax problem. Even if they do, they likely aren’t aware of the actual monetary liability. With this in mind, an excellent place to start the estate tax discussion is by setting the stage with a few projections. Current liability can be projected with some certainty, but many assumptions need to be made about the clients’ future liability.

About the client:

Life Stage: Brink of Retirement With 2 Children

Employment Status: Business Owners

Household Income Range: $1m ‐‐ $1.5m

Business Revenue Range: $300m+

Asset Summary: Company worth approx. $1billion, six properties approx. $35m, vehicles worth 300k

Liability Summary: Loans $3m

  • Live in Upstate New York
  • Two children: Peter (age 29, married); Carter (age 25, married)
  • One grandchild (11), and one on the way

Bill and Stacy Reese are a married couple in their sixties, approaching retirement. They have a net worth of $1 billion. Bill started an IT firm, Reese Software, in the 90s after the dot com boom in the US. The Reeses own the business together and hope to sustain the company as a family business. Both of their children studied computer science and work for the family company.

The couple has thought about their future significantly, including protecting future generations and making charitable donations. They did forget one crucial plan, however, an estate plan. They have an existing plan, but it is outdated. They have discussed updating the plan, and they know what they find essential but that have not taken the time to incorporate these new ideas into the existing plan. Since the formation of their initial plan, the income has evolved, and they fear potential tax issues can arise.

Typically, the Reeses have had an attorney draw up basic estate planning documents, such as revocable trusts, but have doubts that the structure of their estate plan aligns with their current situation. When the documents were drawn, the couple only had their first child and did not plan on having the second. Now that their children are married, and have one grandchild, with another on the way, they would like to incorporate their children’s spouses and grandchildren in their plan. Their current grandchild, 11-year-old Megan, has a promising future as a ballet dancer, so they would like to keep in mind education for the future and education of generations to come. Also, as their estate grows, they are concerned about federal and state estate tax exposure.

They have already put their children through college, so that is no longer a concern. Their current monthly household expenses sit around $25,000 a month after tax. Currently, the couple is in the 35% federal tax bracket.


As we can see, the Reeses are quite financially savvy; everyone needs a helping hand, especially when it comes to the future of their wealth. Here, we have identified the family needs guidance with honing in their retirement plan, estate plan, preparing the future generations for obtaining wealth, and even a plan to leave a philanthropic legacy.

Retirement Planning

While the Reeses have a retirement plan that they are happy with, it is vital to reevaluate your plan to ensure it still aligns with your goals and values. During the retirement planning process, individuals and couples will determine the lifestyle they like best, where they want to retire, and how much money they will need to meet all of these goals.

During the retirement planning process, the advisor and planning individuals will also examine the structures in which the individual is saving their funds since the couple has expressed their concern regarding tax exposure so they are looking for a tax-favorable structure that will reduce their responsibility and worry.

Preparing Future Generations

The significant wealth that the Reese family has worked hard for will one day be passed on to the next generation. This can include money, assets, or even a business. Unfortunately, wealth does not come with an instruction manual. Unless your heirs are fully educated on what having significant wealth means and the responsibility that comes with it, the future may not look as bright as you had always imagined.

Incorporating a next-generation education plan into your family office planning will make sure that your family members are ready for the responsibility.

Our goal, when assisting you with this major step, is ensuring that your values are kept at the forefront of the plan.


The Reeses also emphasized a desire to leave a legacy to not only their family but a cause they strongly believe in, the education of children in underperforming neighborhoods. With the help of an advisor, the Reeses can figure out the perfect avenue for them.

Here are some of the options the Reese family has:

  • Direct Donations- One of the easiest and most popular ways to contribute is through making a direct donation to a charity or organization. This can provide financial support to an organization or cause immediately and are commonly tax-deductible.
  • Volunteering- If you are looking for a more hands-on contribution, volunteering is a great way to contribute. There are many roles and responsibilities that one can assume from a basic volunteer to board members. Volunteering also allows individuals to have valuable insight into the organization while also allowing the volunteers to employ useful skills and talents.
  • Donor-Advised Funds- A donor-advised fund grants tax-deductible contributions to a personal giving account of the donor. Grants are given to charities from the giving account and can be anonymous.
  • Private Foundations- When wealthy individuals and families create private foundations, they have the power over grantmaking. They give families control over grantmaking and investments and engage in various levels of the foundation. It is subject to minimum distribution requirements and any taxation that’s required by the jurisdiction in which it is formed.

Estate Planning

While it can be hard to imagine one’s mortality, estate planning is a vital part of any financial plan. It surely is a subject that many do not want to begin thinking about, but it can be more tragic, knowing your family may not have a thorough plan.

An estate plan should be a staple in any retirement plan. While planning a retirement, individuals are preparing for the later years of their lives, where their income will come from, where they will live, etc. For a worry-free retirement, your planning should begin early. During this planning a breezy retirement, individuals should also be seriously considering what is going to happen when they are no longer around.

The next step in your life is estate planning. A proper estate plan will not only allow retirees to feel comfortable with the future of their wealth, but it will also make it much easier for loved ones and heirs to tie up any loose ends, distribute wealth, allocate belongings.

A common belief about estate plans is that creating a will suffice. Although the will is essential, it’s not the only step of a thorough plan. The Reeses have a nearly complete plan, but they are ready to reevaluate. With the help of an advisor, they will be able to check up on all of the following documents and planning steps.

  • Taking inventory (both physical and nonphysical)
  • Property management
  • Healthcare directive
  • Living trust
  • Creating a will

The dedicated team of advisors at Alpen Partners is ready to help our clients with their estate planning needs. By taking a hands-on approach and with your values and goals in mind, we will ensure that you can retire with an estate plan that works best for you and your loved ones. It’s no simple task, especially for an individual with many expensive assets. For a better understanding of a proper estate plan, let us look at some of what goes into estate planning.

Let us take a closer look at all of these estate plan essentials.


The first step of an estate plan is knowing exactly what will need to be allocated. This means creating an inventory of your belongings. Making an inventory of physical items often starts with examining the inside and outside of your home and making a list of anything that is worth more than $100. This list usually includes vehicles, electronics, power tools, art, antiques, and more.

Non-physical assets will also need to be accounted for. This includes assets owned on paper such as brokerage accounts, IRA assets, life insurance policies, and policies like long-term care, auto, health, and homeowners insurance.

Further, it is essential for individuals also to list any debts they have, such as lines of credit, mortgages, and any other applicable debts.

Wills and Trust

A will is not just something for those getting ready to retire. Anyone above the age of 18 should have a will. Without one, it will be an unorganized mess when it comes time to distribute assets.

The will is the document that explains which people or organizations that will receive assets after one dies. Many consider this to be the most critical part of your estate planning, especially for those with a substantial amount of assets. A will ensures belongings and assets are distributed according to an individual’s wishes. An executor is named in the will. An executor is a person who is responsible for making sure any outstanding debts and taxes are taken care of.

The trust is a legal document that places assets into a trust before one passes and will later transfer any remaining assets to designated beneficiaries. A reliable trustee of the individual’s choice oversees this document and ensures it is carried out properly.  Trusts typically help limit estate taxes or some legal challenges.

While these short summaries make it look simple to draw up these documents, the wording is crucial and must be precise. A will or trust needs to be written in a way that is consistent with the way you have allocated the assets that are bequeathed outside of the will.

Simply put, one must name the person as a beneficiary of a policy commonly passed outside of a will, such as an insurance policy, as it is listed on the will. If the names on the documents do not match, it can lead to a will contest, which could lead to further, more personal problems.

Durable Power of Attorney

You will not be able to speak for yourself when you pass. Before this time comes, individuals need to select a trusted person that will stand as a durable power of attorney. The lasting power of attorney speaks on a person’s behalf. Without this person, the court may be left to make decisions on behalf of an individual, deciding what happens to their assets. The court’s decision may not align with their desires.

The chosen person will have the power to sell real estate and make other legal decisions as if they were the deceased person. This person can be a spouse, family member, friend, or trusted advisor. The durable power of attorney may also be called upon if a medical condition occurs where you are no longer mentally competent.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

This person is also known as an advance healthcare directive. A healthcare power of attorney essentially makes medical care decisions should a time arrive that an individual is unable to make such decisions themselves. The healthcare power of attorney also determines whether or not one shall undergo the use of life support and whether or not they choose to donate organs.

Family Office Services by Alpen Partners

Estate planning cannot be done alone. Alpen Partners utilizes a hands-on approach to creating a plan that works best for you and your family. We have years of experience as a family wealth planners and financial advisors. We provide our clients with a full range of family office services. More than being merely an asset manager for clients, we become their trusted partner to handle all aspects of their private affairs.

Alpen Partners offers clients with more than 10 million in assets under its management a complete range of family office services, similar to what large multi-billion dollar families typically receive through their own family offices.

Our clients have realized the cost and efficiency benefits of having Alpen Partners take care of their family office, and have appreciated that they need to own their own family office became a dispensable luxury.

Interested? Contact us now


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No matter the problem, Alpen Partners will handcraft a solution for you. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to financial success. Our approach involves working with our clients to make a unique plan to meet their needs. Rest assured that we will work hard to guide you through the process of meeting your financial and personal goals.

Contact us to enhance your financial plan today.

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