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Heard at Heckerling 2022 - Day 2

Day two at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning conference proved to be another interesting day with six sessions. With two exceptions, the theme for today was definitely ‘stay in your lane.’ As speaker Lauren Wolven recommended, “Don’t get out over your skis!”

  • Paul S. Lee started us off with the second part of his session on partnership taxation with a focus on the care that must be taken when planning with and using partnerships. He let us know that it did not appear that Treasury was looking to get rid of grantor trust rules, but a proposed additional IRC Section 1062 would seriously impact their effectiveness in part by making certain actions, such as a grantor’s swap of assets with a grantor trust under the power to substitute, a taxable event. We’ll all be watching Congress closely for that one.

  • Lauren Wolven spoke about dealing with errors. She mentioned that trust, estates, and probate represents one of the largest categories of malpractice claims by practice area and that the number of claims is rising dramatically. She also talked about the ethics of discovering that an error has been made, the practitioner’s responsibility to notify the client, as well as some of the psychology behind making an apology. This was an informative, and somewhat terrifying, session as she walked us through some recently litigated errors. The key takeaway: know your limitations and call for help when its needed; estate planning can be tougher than it looks!

  • John Porter gave us a review of recent issues in the world of estate and gift tax audits and tax court litigation. Valuations, especially with respect to taking discounts, seem to be a running theme through a lot of the litigation. With even the IRS not presenting a consistent message on what types of discounts it will find acceptable, it’s a relief to know that Citrin Cooperman’s Valuation Advisory Services Practice team, led by Mandeep Trivedi, is on top of it all! The other focus was the concept of creators of trusts, or grantors, maintaining control or retaining beneficial enjoyment over assets that were transferred to trusts.

  • Brad Bedingfield spoke about private foundations and especially the need to be cautious to avoid the self-dealing rules. It’s an important area to bring in the experts!

  • Akane Suzuki gave a fascinating section on the issues that can arise when a U.S. person dies, either within the US or abroad, owning property outside of the US; or when a non-US person dies owning property in the US. With so many complications, it’s comforting to know that there are experts to reach out to when these estate matters arise. Akane closed with a reminder that we found particularly valuable: remember that tone is a difficult thing to convey in an email, even among native speakers. Be careful about taking offense, a short or abrupt answer might just be the result of the other party responding in a secondary language.

  • The day ended with a session that we agreed was one of the best we had experienced at Heckerling. Steve Mignogna moderated a panel of Gerard Brew, Crystal Edwards, Terrence Franklin, and Richard Nenno to discuss how we each can do our part to increase and support diversity in our practices and our profession. Each of the panelists have faced adversity in their professional lives, whether through unconscious bias, perceptions, or actual physical barriers. They discussed the ways they have been or still are impacted by these challenges, but with kindness and occasional humor also explained how we can be advocates for all of our colleagues. Inclusion takes a conscious effort and some empathy, but it isn’t hard. If you have a chance to hear any of these panelists speak, we strongly encourage it!

So, another exhausting but informative day. Check back tomorrow for more of what we've heard at Heckerling!

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