Edward Renn is a leading private-client lawyer at Withers Bergman LLP, where he has been a partner since 1998. His areas of expertise extend across estate planning, income maximization strategies, FLP and LLC planning, wealth preservation, business succession planning, international tax planning for entities and individuals, trust structures and estate administration. He has also authored several books on topics pertaining to the wealthy, including Protecting the Family Fortune and Fortune’s Fortress: A Primer on Wealth Preservation for Hedge Fund Professionals.

Prince: Let’s begin by having you describe your firm and your practice.
Renn: Withers Bergman focuses on private client matters—the intersection of tax, estate planning and creditor protection. Tax-efficient trust structures that exempt assets from state tax or foreign grantor trusts that are exempt from U.S. income tax are as common as a domestic business succession structure designed to maintain the client’s control while minimizing or eliminating gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. The firm frequently creates single and multifamily office structures, facilitates the purchase and sale of world-class art, designs custom products that utilize life insurance or insurance captives to avoid current taxation, creates philanthropic structures that qualify for a tax deduction in two or more jurisdictions and [uses strategies that meet] many, many other exotic or esoteric client needs. Withers Bergman has depth and experience in the private client arena and has over 150 partners throughout the world providing private client services. The firm represents over 20% of the members of the Forbes Rich List.

My practice touches six continents, but the majority of my work is in the U.S. I provide customized solutions to achieve my clients’ goals. My clients created their wealth in many different ways. I work with wealthy entrepreneurs, hedge fund and private equity principals, global executives, real estate families, high government figures, entertainers and sports figures and individuals with significant inherited wealth.

Prince: How do you create customized legal solutions for your clients?
Renn: You first need to understand your client’s goals and the structures or tax attributes of assets they already have. The planning needs to accomplish what the client wants, whether that is creating a multigenerational trust that will avoid U.S. gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, avoiding repeated application of a 40% tax bite at each generational level for 1,000 years, or using a charitable trust that will provide an immediate income tax deduction equal to the size of the gift, while providing a sizable gift-tax-free remainder for children or other family members and achieving the client’s charitable goals. I look at both the client’s income and transfer tax exposures and attempt to optimize the overall tax savings.

You also need to understand how non-U.S. assets affect a client’s tax planning and be certain your U.S. solution does not create an offshore problem. For clients with international assets or an international family, a U.S. lawyer needs to work as part of a broader legal team and recognize that a perfect U.S. answer could be a major disaster in other jurisdictions. I recently reviewed a plan involving Japanese beneficiaries that was flawless from a U.S. perspective, but a tax nightmare under Japanese rules.

Prince: How do you work with other professionals?
Renn: Most of my referrals come from investment advisors, accountants, other U.S. lawyers who don’t practice in my area, insurance professionals, actuaries and foreign advisors. They expect their clients to be treated with the utmost courtesy and their legal matters to be handled expertly and expeditiously. Because I am fortunate enough to have earned the trust of high-quality professionals, my practice benefits from helping their clients, and they, in turn, earn deeper trust from the client when he or she is happy with my work.

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