The basic vehicle to accomplish your values-based planning. Transfers assets and the care of any minor children at your passing in an orderly fashion.
Under the wire, under the knife
Just 48 hours before emergency surgery Jessica S. realized the necessity of planning her estate.
“I broke my ankle. And as a CPA, I was not going to go under the knife without an estate plan. I remember being super emotional. My brother was upset with me for not already having an estate plan, plus I was anxious about the surgery.” Recognizing the unlikelihood of finding an attorney to put her estate plan in place in the time allotted, she reached out to Nina Stillman, seeking advice and, if nothing else, peace of mind. To her relief, Stillman agreed to help.
“I couldn’t have called anyone else on a Friday night needing an estate plan on Sunday. She brought calm to me. We’ve all been taught that you don’t talk about money and politics. And those things play into your estate plan. Nina is the place where you can roll them all into one meeting and talk about them all at once with someone who knows how to have those conversations without pain and without judgment. Nina listened to my situation and promised she’d take care of everything. And she did it with no time to spare. What I learned is that even without the luxury of time, I could count on Nina to do what’s best for me,” Thank you Nina.
-Jessica S. CPA and Client-
The next level document to accomplish assets transfer and tax planning upon passing or during life. Trusts add an additional layer of asset protection and privacy, and cover many different types of situations that a will cannot cover adequately.
Pre travel estate planning
Sid L. needed help setting up a trust.
His motivation stemmed from a relatively impromptu trip to visit his mother in Israel. Just a few weeks before his departure date he began wondering what would come of his business and four children if something happened to him while traveling.
“I don’t have a wife, my children need to be taken care of, I’m a sole proprietor business owner, and I was planning to fly overseas. The thought struck me, ‘I should really figure this out’.”
Stillman got right to work. “She thinks of everything. When writing my estate plan, she of course got right to work taking care of my kids and my business, but in addition she thought to ask would I like to include my cat, my precious Fatty! (that is really her name). Who would take care of her? Should I set up a trust for her medical bills if she falls ill? What happens if the cat dies and there are leftover funds? She told me someone could kill the cat for that money. That’s something I never would have thought about in a million years,”
A couple of weeks and hundreds of questions later, Stillman handed Levin his completed plan. “She handed me a book when she was done. I don’t know half the stuff that’s in there. Honestly, I probably don’t even know 95%. What I do know is that if I told her what I wanted, it’s in there.”
-Sid L. - Business Owner-
Powers of Attorney
Appoints trusted persons to act for you when you are living but cannot act for yourself regarding your property and health. A Power of Attorney for Healthcare is also known as a “living will.”
“Nina is great in getting people to open up to her. She’s a good listener, asks the right questions, and brings warmth to her meetings and makes difficult things easier to talk about.”
- Stacy K. Business Owner-
Protecting assets from unforeseen creditors, tax issues and unwanted consequences in the future.
This can be anything such as simple legal language in trust to keep any of your heirs' creditors hands off of assets you leave to your heirs, or picking a different corporate entity, such as a corporation vs. an LLC to protect personal assets from business liabilities.
Income and Estate Tax Planning
Employing techniques and tools to minimize exposure to tax liability now and after passing.
Use of IRS approved methods to freeze the value of an asset to the timing of a gift, such as a business or a portion of a business, and passing it on to your heirs so that all of that value gifted AND the growth on that value, is out of the gifting parties estate. This can lessen exposure to income tax as well.
What if you are going to owe estate tax? Using a life insurance trust to hold a life insurance policy that will not cause you to owe additional estate tax at your passing, but will also pay for any estate tax that you do owe at your passing.
Shepherding loved ones through the Probate process or the technical aspects of distribution of an estate.
No one knows when grandmother’s time is up
What’s worse than dealing with the loss of a family member? When the beneficiary is confronted with confusing and aggressive threats over their family member’s debts. That was the situation Todd S. found himself in after the death of his grandmother.
Prior to passing away, Todd's grandmother lived in a senior community. When she died Todd was sent a very curious bill. “The community charged us two month’s rent because we didn’t give them two months notice.”
To clarify, the community was charging my Grandmother extra because she had not anticipated the exact date of her death. Guessing that that the community’s request was unreasonable, Todd reached out to Nina Stillman who confirmed his suspicions.
“Nina is not only very smart, she can be very persuasive.” After researching complex laws that applied to the facility and additional nursing home laws that were not so obvious as to whether they applied, “Nina argued in a perfectly drafted letter that the facility was not legally allowed to charge such a fee. She got my family a full refund without any pushback,. In a word, “Done". That’s why you hire Nina.
Todd S. - Client
Ms. Stillman has served as an expert Witness in several cases of Estate Planning Malpractice at the hands of other attorneys. She holds the client in the highest regard and integrity is her hallmark. She has provided expert analysis of issues such as Generation Skipping Tax planning and Business Valuation issues within the context of estates that have gone wrong. Her astute analysis has contributed to the settlement of these issues rather than proceeding to trial, as she has provided professional and accurate analysis and demonstrated the error of the offending attorneys’ ways to the satisfaction of the parties Judges involved in these matters.
Malpractice via Ctrl+V
Identifying malpractice among estate plan attorneys is nothing new to Nina Stillman. In fact, she estimates about 20% of her time is spent undoing the mistakes of other people. The primary cause of these mistakes? Copying and pasting.
Estate plan attorneys at larger firms are under an immense amount of pressure to constantly take on new clients and handle their cases quickly. Unfortunately, this can lead to sloppy work—copying chunks of paragraphs from a pre-existing estate plan and pasting them into a new one.
“It’s a huge problem,” Stillman said. That’s because inappropriate items can get pasted into the new client’s estate plan. Ideally, these mistakes are caught, but that’s rarely what happens. Clients put their trust – their estate – in our hands. We all should prove worthy of that trust.”
That trustworthiness was demonstrated to Randi and Barry C. when they were referred to Stillman to update their estate plan and she notified them there was a major error in their original plan. Randi explains, “The other lawyer (at a large firm) had cut and pasted something from someone else’s document. So some stranger, some guy from some other client’s estate plan, got pasted into our plan as my trust protector! We’ve never even heard of him and yet he potentially had control over our assets!”
Stillman went back to the original lawyer and using quite a bit of persistence, convinced him to have the stranger resign as trust protector, ensuring that her updated document would be the only one legally viable.
“Nina went to bat for us,” said Barry. “When you are dealing with an estate plan, something you are always worried about is someone finding a loophole. I’m absolutely positive that if anything Nina worked on was ever challenged, it would hold water. There’s no question about it. She’s so thorough. Everything ties into one. It’s like having a good contractor when the plumber and the electrician are at odds. When you have a solid legal contractor who understands the inner-workings, it all goes smoothly. Everything is consistent.”
-Randi & Barry C. - Business Owners-
Business and Succession Planning
Passing your business on to the next generation or not. What are the options? When?
“Nina is able to take very high-level things and simplify them to make them understandable. In addition to being an estate planning attorney, she’s a business lawyer, so she brings a business operations perspective and knowledge of taxes to the important work she does protecting businesses from legal liability and protecting the assets for the heirs of the business owners. And since Nina works with high net worth and ultra high net worth clients she also understands how to utilize low interest rate environments to fully employ complex planning like GRATS and inter family low interest rate loans. She’s got you covered/She gets it.”
-Jessica S. CPA -
Complex Planning & Business Law
We act as business attorneys and general counsel for clients who do not need a full-time, in-house attorney, but want help with contracts, employee issues, vendor agreements, internal business governance, business formations, buying other companies, agreements between partners in businesses, leases and subleases, human resource issues and many other areas of business law.
Trusting the right people
“I’m not a big fan of lawyers,” said Rick M.
Regrettably, his opinion is based upon experience. One attorney scammed him out of $3,000, another billed him for 26 hours in one work day, and another at a large firm dished him off to a different lawyer who had just started working in his state of residence. That lawyer turned out to be Nina Stillman.
“I think I was her first client when she came to Illinois from Minnesota" To his surprise, getting passed off to Nina ended up being a blessing. One of the many situations she has handled for Rick involved a sheriff in Florida. “He was harassing us, trying to shake us down and we kept thinking it would go away. When it didn’t, I called Nina, Nina called him, told him she was on to his scam, end of story. She’s a bulldog when you need one.”
“I’ve dealt with a lot of lawyers in my life and Nina is by far the easiest one to work with.” “She’s a straight shooter who gets things done and she gets it done effectively and expeditiously. After everything I’ve gone through with other attorneys, that means something. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s equally well versed in multiple areas of law.”
Since their first meeting when he spotted her value and trustworthiness, Stillman has managed his real estate, business, and personal legal matters.
“When it comes to anything legal, I always start with Nina,”
-Rick M. - Business Owner-
Business Formation & Governance
Choosing the right legal entity for your business, your family and your estate planning needs involves tax planning and long-range exit planning.
Help with business formalities that can enhance the value of your business. Nothing hurts a business more than business partners who aren’t getting along. We help prevent flare ups by putting in place an agreement that has some teeth. I It sets up ways to resolve differences with each business partner understanding that disagreements have consequences, and it may be better to find a path forward together rather than break up a business.
"Nina has been an incredible resource to me through the formation and operation of several business
ventures. She is knowledgeable, trustworthy and fair. Plus, she's just
plain cool. "
-Faith M, Philanthropy Officer -
“She really understands people. When a client is angry, Nina has a way of dealing with it and converting it into logic.”
- Rick M. - Business Owner-
Contracts and Agreements
Whether it is drafting a road map to handling disputes and exits from a multi-owner business; Making sure employees you hire stick to the rules and have incentives to grow and protect your business or keeping anyone in the business from distributing or letting out your company secrets - Nina Stillman can put it all down on paper and have your back.
"Everyone knows to protect their children, but they don’t think of their business. How are you going to protect your business?"
-Sid L. Business Owner -
Talking money before getting engaged
No one wants to talk money right before a wedding much less before an engagement. Asking for a prenuptial agreement can feel like forecasting a divorce.
That’s how Randi and Barry’s daughter felt when they recommended she and her fiancé sign a prenup. There were businesses that had been built in the family, and her parents wanted them to stay there. When they expressed their concerns to Nina Stillman, she responded with three simple words: I’ll handle it.
“Nina sat down with us, listened to our concerns, and got together with our daughter. She even recommended an attorney for our daughter’s fiancé to use, which he did. By the time she got back to us, true to her words, everything was handled,” explained Randi. “She was delicate about it and removed the discomfort from the conversation. She’s easy to be with. You feel like you’ve known her for a million years. She put everyone at ease. Now the kids all know her, she’s a member of the family, she’s the keeper of all. She has even handled our son's business formation, contracts and leases as well. Everything funnels through her.”
“She gets the big picture,” added Barry. “She looks after your relationships, not just your money.” On with the wedding!
-Randi and Barry C. - Business Owners-