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Advising the Wealthy in Times of Protracted and Unprecedented Political, Economic, Cultural, and Scientific Change

Jan 13, 2016

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, which convened in Orlando, Florida this week. Heckerling is the largest and most prestigious estate planning conference in the country. Fifty years ago, Philip E. Heckerling started the first Institute, with 200 attendees; this year's Institute has drawn more than 3,200 attendees.

Several EisnerAmper professionals are attending the Institute and reporting on the hot topics being discussed.

Here is the first of a series of reports from the 2016 Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. 

Joshua S. Rubenstein of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP discussed how we are all experiencing unprecedented change in every area of our lives. For centuries, the trust and estate laws were more or less constant; now, they are changing constantly, and in the middle of the game.

Since the summer of 2008, the private client world has been turned on its head by global events. We have seen a worldwide recession; domestic and international political turmoil; the collapse of major investment houses (Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers); the near collapse of global banks (and the massive governmental bailouts that ensued); accounting scandals involving large public companies (Enron and WorldCom); the discovery and collapse of Ponzi schemes  (including Madoff); ongoing European debt crises; and the inability of the U.S. Congress to pass responsive and timely legislation (sending the country over the "fiscal cliff"  twice in 3 years, then into a "sequester" and more recently a temporary expiration of the Patriot Act, impairing the ability to fight terrorism).

There have been a number of issues impacting the wealthy, including rising tax rates; rapidly changing social values including changing views of marriage, gender equality and family; increasing concerns for personal and physical security as well as protection of assets, succession issues and how/whether to keep the family enterprise intact and profitable; and privacy issues; increased scrutiny and cyber breaches.

How do wealthy individuals plan for their families in the midst of such monumental change? Mr. Rubenstein suggests that it is prudent to plan for change, and controversy. Consider customized solutions. Be transparent in transactions and avoid surprises. Keep things flexible -- and simple -- where possible.

For more content stemming from the 2016 Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, please click here

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