Law Offices of Robert J. Kolasa, Ltd

1401 N. Western Avenue, 2nd Floor
Lake Forest, IL 60045

 

Law Offices of Robert J. Kolasa, Ltd

1401 N. Western Avenue, 2nd Floor
Lake Forest, IL 60045

 

Practice Areas

My Background

 

I take pride in my highly personalized approach. As an estate planning attorney, I take into account the individual needs and goals of my clients to create custom-tailored estate plans. My background as a C.P.A. and former IRS attorney, along with over a 30-year legal career, complements my “straight talk” and strong technical analysis in leading clients through the estate planning, trust administration, and estate tax maze. 

 

I’ve been practicing law since 1983 and hold a C.P.A. license from the State of Illinois. In 1993 I started my own law firm specializing in probate, estate planning, asset protection and trust administration in Lake Forest, Illinois, which is where I also live.  I have a Masters's degree in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center (L.L.M. Tax – 1983) and twin degrees from the University of Detroit (J.D. – 1982;  B.S. Accounting, magna cum laude -  1979). I began my legal career in 1983 in the IRS National Office, as an IRS Attorney in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Washington, D.C. This is where I began my career as a trust lawyer and developed a sophisticated knowledge of the Internal Revenue Code and the workings of the IRS.

Newly Admitted ACTEC Fellow

I am very proud to announce that I have been elected a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), a prestigious association of highly credentialed trust and estate lawyers. ACTEC is a group of peer-elected trust and estate attorneys across the US and abroad. It is not easy to become a Fellow in ACTEC. Lawyers are selected to be Fellows based on their outstanding reputation, exceptional skill, and substantial contributions to the field by lecturing, writing, teaching and participating in bar activities. ACTEC’s goal is to improve and reform probate, trust and tax laws, procedures, and professional responsibility. For more on ACTEC, go to https://www.actec.org/.

Associations, Speaking Engagements and Publications.

In 2009 I was elected President of the Lake County Estate Planning Council, a non-profit association comprised of the top estate professionals (attorneys, accountants, trust officers, financial, insurance and charitable planners) in Lake County Illinois. I’ve frequently written estate planning legal articles to educate my peers and clients on tax issues, including recent articles regarding projected 2017 tax changes, gifting to save Illinois estate taxes, constitutional challenges to the Illinois income tax on trust income and estate tax portability. I have lectured extensively on probate and estate planning in many seminars and before the Chicago Bar Association, Lake County Bar Association, Lake County Estate Planning Council, North Suburban Bar Association and other groups. I have also taught adult education classes on estate planning and asset protection for the College of Lake County and Highland Park adult education program.  Estate planning seminars are also conducted before the general public.

Legal Services.

 

Robert J. Kolasa, Ltd. offers a full range of estate planning, probate and trust administration services. These include preparation of wills, revocable living trusts, life insurance, dynasty, and other irrevocable trusts, grantor trusts, charitable trusts, family limited partnerships, grantor retained annuity trusts, spousal access trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, stockholder agreements, buy-sell agreements, living wills, durable health and property powers of attorney, property transfers, probate documents, and estate and gift tax returns. In addition to formulating highly personal estate plans, I enjoy helping trustees, executors, and guardians fulfill their respective fiduciary responsibilities imposed by state law and the Internal Revenue Code.

Custom Estate Planning and Drafting

 

Beware so-called estate planning attorneys who utilize the same forms for ALL their clients, irrespective of financial and family differences. My lawfirm is not a “trust mill” or “one size fits all” practice. Our trust and estate planning documents reflect the individual needs, financial and family circumstances of the particular client involved. Of the many, many trusts I’ve drafted during my career, no two documents are ever exactly the same. Although there may be similarities between documents drafted for certain classes of clients (i.e., young families with minor children; seniors with adult children; families with special needs children; grandparents wanting to set up educational trusts for their grandchildren), the individual family circumstances of the clients dictate the precise terms of the documents.
 
I painstakingly take my time in the interview process to explain ALL reasonable and practical drafting options to my clients. We then make an informed decision as to what should work for the client’s unique circumstance. Drafts are never “pushed” in front of clients with the directive to “sign here.” We sincerely try to ensure that our clients are cognizant of what they are signing and the reasons why particular legal provisions appear in their documents. In short, there is a high degree of specialization and attention to detail for every estate planning document drafted by me. I would have it no other way.

ESTATE PLANNING AND CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19):


HOW TO LEGALLY PREPARE FOR A PANDEMIC

 

 

 

BLOG ENTRY - CLICK HERE:

"SIGN  YOUR ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS AT  HOME" LAW

IL GOVERNOR RESPONDS TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC 

I am not an infection control doctor or epidemiologist.  I am an estate planning attorney in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  Nevertheless, let me share my thoughts on the current COVID-19 pandemic which has so affected the lives of everyone in this country (and the world for that matter) and how it may affect your estate plan.

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, many countries are requesting individuals to stay at home in self-quarantine. The great state of Illinois declared just such an emergency order on March 20, 2020. See COVID-19 Executive Order 2020-10 signed by Governor, JB Pritzker.  

COVID-19 is a disease that we cannot ignore. It is spreading easily and sustainably throughout our entire country (“community spread”)  Elderly adults are especially vulnerable and those who have an underlying issue such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory problems, and other weakening conditions. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when our weather becomes warmer.  There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19.

With so many cases of the virus in Illinois, please consider the following steps you can implement relating to your estate plan, which involves confirming that the proper estate planning documents are in place if you become infected with COVID-19.

STEP #1:  CHANGE AND/OR MAKE A NEW LIVING TRUST OR WILL

Do you have a Will or Living Trust?  If so, when was the last time you reviewed these documents?  Do you need to update these instruments to change beneficiaries or the fashion in which beneficiaries will inherit assets?  Perhaps inherited assets should be placed in a discretionary trust for spendthrift children, or even in a Dynasty Trust to protect loved ones from creditors or the actions of a greedy divorcing spouse?  Did you properly plan to minimize confiscatory estate taxes that may be payable to the IRS or Illinois Attorney General?  Have you funded your Living Trust to avoid expensive and time-consuming probate proceedings?  The wrong answer to any of these questions can materially affect whether your hard-earned assets are efficiently distributed to family members in the precise manner you desire. 

Now more than ever, it is imperative to ensure that your estate planning documents are up to date. If you do not have a Will or Living Trust, you should use this time at home as an opportunity to perform an assessment of your assets, debts, and intentions so you can ensure that the people you care for are taken care of.
 

STEP #2:  CHANGE AND/OR MAKE NEW PROPERTY & HEALTH POWERS OF ATTORNEYS

It is extremely important to have updated Powers of Attorneys ("POAs") for Property and Health Care in place, especially if you are at a higher risk to get COVID-19.  A Property POA ensures that your financial decisions are handled properly if you can't handle them on your own. If you are too sick to make these decisions, the Property POA lets a person you trust make the decisions for you. 

 

If you are part of a high-risk group or are in self-quarantine, it may become difficult to manage your day-to-day finances if you are not using internet banking or other remote means to manage your finances. Appointing a trusted person who is not at high-risk as your Property POA Agent may be an ideal solution.  Additionally, If the Property POA is effective only upon your incapacity, then you should determine how it can be “activated” to enable your Agent to start acting on your behalf (or sign a new Property POA that is immediately effective).

A Health POA  is a document in which you designate your Agent to make or communicate decisions about all aspects of your health care (i.e., shelter, clothing, hygiene, safety, medical and end-of-life decisions) in the event that you are incapable of doing so yourself. All of these issues are highly relevant in these trying times. If you do not have a Health POA, you should assess whom you can appoint to fill this role. You should also consider end-of-life wishes, if any, and ensure that your Agent is aware of them.

STEP #3:  REVIEW YOUR EXISTING BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

Assets such as bank accounts, IRA’s, life insurance, and annuities have the ability to possess a beneficiary designation upon your passing.  Make sure to call your financial institution or check online to review your beneficiary designations (typically, all accounts should have a primary and secondary beneficiary).  Complete your beneficiary designation if you have not already done so, or update them to make changes.   In many cases, the crafting of beneficiary designations will need to be carefully coordinated with your Will or Living Trust.

STEP #4:  IF YOU HAVE ESTATE TAX EXPOSURE, THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO  TAKE ACTION 

While your financial assets may have sunk like the Titanic with the COVID-10 outbreak, do you have faith that these values will eventually recover once the scare is off (like years ago in the Great Recession)?  If so, now is an opportune time to considerer estate tax planning strategies to minimize estate tax liabilities.  

Consider gifts to family members with assets that have reduced values (but are expected to recover).  Gifting can be simply made by outright gifts to family members using the annual gift tax exclusion ($15,000).  Alternatively, gifts can be made through custom drafted trusts.  A common misconception is that all such gifts are capped at $15,000, when in reality they are limited by the much higher federal estate tax exemption (currently $11.58 million).  Large gifts sometimes can generate large tax savings.  Check out my recent article on Wrapping Your Head Around the Illinois Estate Tax and how gifting may materially lower estate taxes.  This is a viable and important planning option. 

 

Many other estate tax options may exist.  Clients may consider using Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts (SLATs). With a SLAT, the grantor spouse gifts assets to the trust, but the other spouse is a trust beneficiary so that the couple may still enjoy the assets.  A grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) may be an effective way for a client to gift a highly appreciating asset out of his or her estate.   Low-interest rates may also spur more financing of life insurance premiums or encourage sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts ("IDGTs") to accomplish substantial estate tax savings.  There are endless possibilities to make a dent in the estate taxes which the government may confiscate if you have the courage to act.   Compared to the dread of dying from COVID-19, maybe the time is right for enlightened clients to act and consider some of these advanced planning options.

STEP #5:  EMBRACE THE NEW REALITY AND CONSIDER THE EXECUTION OF  ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS REMOTELY

In a very short time, COVID-19 has changed our behavior exponentially.  Most of us are at home and practicing proper social distancing to do our part in (hopefully) flattening the infection curve.  However, estate planning attorneys and our practices have been dramatically affected as well.  Clients should take note of the new estate planning environment which has emerged.

Under Illinois law, there are well-established requirements relating to the execution of estate planning documents.   Wills must be signed by the Testator in the presence of two witnesses (notarization is optional).  Property POAs must be notarized and witnessed.  Health POAs must be witnessed.  Significantly, it is not required that Living Trusts (the most critical document) be witnessed or notarized.

During normal times, I meet with my clients at my office to execute estate planning documents properly in accordance with Illinois law.  However, since meeting in-person to execute Trusts, Wills and POAs may not be possible, I have embraced technology which allows me to meet clients virtually through the computer (using the "GoToMeeting" software).  Under this software solution, I simply email you a link; you click it and VOILA we have a virtual meeting. This is the ideal solution to alleviate concerns about catching a deadly virus.  It is very simple.  If you are not computer literate, we will simply resort to a telephone call to achieve the same purpose.

In a virtual estate planning engagement, we meet online and participate in a mutual interview to develop your precise estate plan.  I then draft and email documents that you approve.  Final drafts are then emailed or sent via Federal Express to your residence for execution.  As stated above, the Living Trust does not have to be notarized or witnessed.  The Will needs only two friendly neighbors to act as witnesses and the Health POA only needs one witness.  The Property POA can be initially executed without a notary, with a notarized version executed later.   An exciting development is that Illinois has now passed electronic Wills and notarization rules allowing online notarization and witnessing.  The slumbering law has awakened and responded to our changed circumstances!

Once the clamor and health risks of COVID-19 subsides, I will generally go back to meeting clients in my office.  However, with the new technology discussed above, it is not absolutely necessary that I meet in person with all clients (although they generally must be Illinois residents).  Prospects who live out of my geographic area can now meet me in the virtual world of the internet (an initial "no-cost' meeting is always standard) and execute the appropriate planning documents outside of the attorney's physical presence.  This happily means you can now have access to my sophisticated estate planning expertise unconstrained by the distance between us.

Disasters at times can unleash a new wave of productivity and creativity.   Please consider giving me a call to become a client either in the old-fashioned physical sense (once COVID-19 abates), or in the new-fangled virtual world of the internet.  We are all now physically and virtually connected in a new estate planning paradigm.  Let me assist you to successfully achieve your estate planning goals.  

News & Publications
Wrapping Your Head Around the Illinois Estate Tax

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Federal estate taxes have been effectively repealed with the current high federal estate tax exclusion. As the 2019 inflation-adjusted $11.4 million federal estate tax exclusion ensures that most decedents will escape taxes from the IRS.  But Illinois still sets the bar lower, taxing estates worth more than $4 million. Estate planners know that while an online tax calculator uses only a few variables to churn out one’s precise Illinois estate tax, the math underling the tax is befuddling and widely misunderstood. This article explains the peculiarities of the Illinois estate tax and the subsequent and considerable changes in estate planning strategies.  This article was published in the July 2019 edition of the Illinois Bar Journal.

Click Wrapping Your Head Around the Illinois Estate Tax

New 2017 Tax Bill Signed into Law by President Trump on December 22, 2017
Formula General Powers of Appointment to the Rescue

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

See my article in the May 2019 edition of Trusts and Estates magazine.  Many credit shelter trusts (CSTs) and irrevocable trusts are inefficient because they don't save estate taxes, yet will deprive the family of stepped-up basis treatment at the beneficiary's death. The article explains that an outstanding cutting-estate tax strategy to mitigate this dilemma
involves granting the surviving spouse a Formula General Power of Appointment.  The formula is usually crafted in such a way to use the spouse's otherwise unused estate tax exclusion to award stepped-up basis for CST assets that have significant appreciation or are subject to high income tax rates while preserving carryover basis for loss assets.

Click Formula General Powers of Appointment to the Rescue

Problems in Springing the Delaware Tax Trap

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

I'm really proud of this article, as it was published in the April 2018 edition of Trusts and Estates magazine, a prestigious legal publication.  With the increased estate tax exclusions, many existing credit shelter trusts will no longer generate estate tax savings.  Worse yet, such trusts may also trigger higher income taxes upon the sale of appreciated assets.  A popular way to achieve basis step-up for credit shelter trusts involves springing the so called Delaware Tax Trap ("Trap").  But, can the Trap be sprung in jurisdictions where local law permits trusts to last in perpetuity or for a very long stated period? Depending on one’s interpretation of the law, trusts in perpetual (or near-perpetual) jurisdictions may be precluded from using this strategy.

 

Click Problems in Springing the Delaware Tax Trap

Stepped-up Basis for Credit Shelter Trusts using
PEG Powers under Illinois Law

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Credit Shelter Trusts (CSTs) have been established for many taxpayers who will not be subject to estate taxes because total assets are less than current estate tax exclusions.  In such cases, CSTs may result in higher overall taxes because CST assets do not receive "stepped up" basis upon the death of the surviving spouse.  This article examines a credible solution to this common and dangerous tax trap.

 

Click Stepped-up Basis for Credit Shelter Trusts

Avoiding Malpractice under the New Estate Tax Portability Rules

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Estate tax portability was created under the federal rules as a relief provision for married taxpayers not having the planning prowess to establish a credit shelter trust at the death of the first to die. This article examines the estate tax portability rules and the sensitive filing deadlines which are needed to invoke its benefit.

 

Click Estate Tax Portability

Making Constitutional Challenges to the Illinois Tax on Trust Income

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Given the high stakes, trustees should consider bringing constitutional challenges to state law to avoid the 6.5 percent Illinois tax on undistributed income under the right circumstances.  This article looks at Illinois statutory law governing trust taxation, reviews cases from various jurisdictions that have upheld and rejected constitutional challenges, and offers advice to Illinois lawyers who might want to consider bringing suits of their own

 

Click Constitutional Challenges to IL Trust Income  Tax 

Making Gifts can Reduce Illinois Estate Taxes

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Recent legislation makes the Illinois estate tax permanent and increases the Illinois estate tax exclusion amount to $3.5 million in 2012 and $4 million for future years. The new exclusions will encourage gifting for clients having tentative taxable estates more than marginally over such limits, because gifts are not taken into account in the Illinois estate tax calculation and thus reduce Illinois estate taxes. For non-cash gifts, the benefit of gifting is lessened by the loss of stepped-up basis at death, but that may in turn be mitigated by estate tax savings resulting from the property’s appreciation during the post-gift period.

Click Making Gifts

George Steinbrenner's Estate Tax Home Run

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

This is a somewhat humorous article I wrote detailing how the estate of George Steinbrenner, the irascible owner of the New York Yankees who died in 2010, avoided hundreds of millions of estate taxes because of that "strange" one-year estate tax repeal period in 2010.

Click George Steinbrenner's Estate Tax Home Run

How to Control Your Wealth after Death (if you want to)
A Seminar Presentation on  Trusts and Estate Planning

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Attached is the Powerpoint presentation I presented for a basic estate planning seminar in Gurnee, IL on February 25, 2015.  Covered issues are custom drafted trusts,  educational trusts, basic estate planning documents, common estate planning mistakes, asset protection techniques, Dynasty Trusts, probate, IRA distributions, estate taxes and estate tax portability.

Click How to Control Your Wealth powerpoint presentation

Drafting Trusts for Asset Protection

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

This 2005 article is still relevant to the structuring of trusts with asset protection attributes.  Major modules discussed are asset protection implications for "routine" trusts, asset protection drafting recommendations, self-settled trusts and different trust distribution standards.

 

Click Drafting Trusts for Asset Protection

The Illinois QTIP Election to to the Rescue

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

After much anticipation, Illinois estate planners finally got what they wished for when the Illinois QTIP legislation became law on September 8, 2009. For married couples it is now possible to make an election on the first to die’s Illinois estate tax return to help solve the conundrums practitioners faced in dealing with the differing federal and Illinois estate tax exclusion amounts.

Click The Illinois QITP Election to to The Rescue

Advise Your Clients on How They Can Increase Their Incomes, Avoid Capital Gains Taxes, Reduce Estate Taxes and Become a Saint

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Charitable Remainder Trusts ("CRTs") can reap tremendous tax and financial benefits. Once relegated to the very wealthy, CRTs are becoming increasingly popular for middle class clients holding appreciated assets. In general, a CRT is a tax-exempt trust a donor establishes which designates the donor or family members as income beneficiaries, with a charity as remainder beneficiary. This article explains the basic mechanics and benefits of CRTs.

Click Advise Your Clients on How They Can Increase...

Asset Protection Changes by the New Bankruptcy Act

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

The Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.
This article is the 2nd of two articles examining the revolutionary 2005 bankruptcy law which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The 1st article (available Here) discussed how the new law would force many individual consumer debtors from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 proceedings, requiring five years of payments to unsecured creditors. This 2nd article discusses how the Act significantly changes the rules relating to bankruptcy forum shopping, exemption planning and asset protection trusts.

Click Asset Protection Changes by the New Bankruptcy Act

Asset Protection        Class Powerpoint Presentation

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Attached is the Powerpoint presentation I presented as part of an asset protection class for the College of Lake County. Covered issues included defining asset protection, goals, and common mistakes, fraudulent transfers, exemption planning, tenancy by the entireties, domestic trusts, beneficiary controlled trusts, corporations and LLCs, "inside out" and "outside in" creditor protection, unbundling, equity stripping, charging order protection and offshore trusts.

Click Asset Protection powerpoint presentation

Funding Living Trusts

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Attached is the seminar outline I presented before the Wills, Trusts and Probate Committee of the Lake County Bar Association on the funding of Living Trusts. Trust funding is the process of transferring a client's assets to their living trust. Generally, to accomplish this, the client physically change the titles of assets from individual name (or joint names, if married) to the name of the trust.  Trust funding is critical to avoid probate at death and achieve estate planning goals.

Click Funding Living Trusts

The Attorney Planning for Probate

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

Attached is the seminar outline for a presentation I gave before the Chicago Bar Association on selected legal issues an attorney faces in regard to planning a client's estate for probate. The seminar was given almost 20 years ago, but most of the topics discussed therein are still relevant in today's legal environment.

 

Click The Attorney Planning for Probate

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

by Robert J. Kolasa

 

This is a short video highlighting common estate planning mistakes made by my clients, such as: (1) assets passing outside of Trust or Will; (2) improper use of joint tenancy; (3) improper IRA Beneficiary Designations; and (4) procrastination.  Robert J. Kolasa is an estate planning lawyer in Lake Forest Illinois.

 

Click Lake Forest Illinois Estate Planning Mistakes

Contact Us Now
Tel: 847-234-6262

Fax: 847-234-7629

Email: robert@kolasalaw.com

Law Offices of Robert J. Kolasa, Ltd

1401 N. Western Avenue, 2nd Floor
Lake Forest, IL 60045

 
© 2020 by Robert J. Kolasa, Ltd.

All Rights Reserved.

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Google+ Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon