- Family offices have become a force to be reckoned with throughout the past several years. A tenfold increase in the number of family offices from 2008 to 2018 and the amount of wealth managed within them – $4 trillion by the end of 2018 – demonstrate a significant disruptive force in the wealth marketplace.
- Because many families' wealth structures are worth more than many private operating businesses, they need to be managed with the same professional skill and care. After all, the family wealth structure is the family business.
- Holland & Knight's Family Office Group serves as private general counsel to family offices in the U.S. and abroad, assisting with the legal and business matters. We provide clients with a 360-degree view to the potential benefits that our advice has on the various structures in place.
We serve as private general counsel to families and family offices. As a family office law firm, we navigate Holland & Knight's vast resources for you. Our Family Office Group, which includes attorneys and other professionals from many practices across the firm, regularly provides guidance and advice regarding the best structure to suit the family's objectives, whether it be starting with a virtual family office, creating a single family office or even a private trust company.
We Are Efficient and Practical Problem Solvers
Beyond having extensive experience in virtually all of the legal issues family offices encounter, additional focal points of our practice include succession planning and crafting agreements among family members, such as family constitutions. We represent a multitude of closely held businesses and provide counsel on complex shareholder and operating agreements. This often enables those who contribute the most to the welfare and betterment of the family to be rewarded appropriately in the form of buyouts and preferred status, while still providing security to the family members who choose different paths.
Not all family offices provide comprehensive services. Determining what services should be performed in-house or hired out, subsequent coordination of the suite of professional advisors and assuring continuity of services are important parts of the discussion that we facilitate with our family office clients. For example, income tax reporting may continue to be handled by longtime accountants. Similarly, some family offices oversee concierge services, such as home construction projects, while others decline to provide personal services to the family. Our lawyers help evaluate the interests of the fiduciaries and beneficiaries to minimize the potential for conflict.
Benefits of a Structured Family Office
A well-planned and maintained family office structure should enhance the value of the family's resources, letting the family live well without being burdened by an inefficient structure. In addition, having a "bird's-eye view" of the structure to see how it works while the decision-makers are living should not be underestimated.
The origins of family office structures include privately owned entities established by wealthy families to manage their wealth, plan for their families' financial future, engage in investment opportunities and provide other services to family members. With so much at stake, Holland & Knight provides a complete suite of services aimed at ensuring the proper management of the family office from an administrative standpoint. Many families of wealth have come to realize the numerous benefits of establishing a structured family office, including:
- enhanced control
- privacy and customization of their asset allocation
- wealth and risk management
- overall legacy plan
Sometimes, a senior generation wealth provider is the sole point person for investments and decision-making, with no designated back up in the event of incapacity or death, and no mechanism for creating or funding an administrative structure. In such situations, we proactively discuss with clients the potential for loss of value and confidence if there is no structure or source of funding in place in the event of incapacity or death of the senior generation provider. We work with clients to determine when and how to create the structure to be operational and have the confidence of the family when the senior generation provider is no longer living.
Deductibility of Family Office Expenditures
Holland & Knight attorneys have extensive experience structuring family offices to permit deductibility of its expenses. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended the rules that previously permitted deductions for expenses incurred for the production of income. Accordingly, the distinction between business expenses and investment expenses has assumed a greater significance, and we regularly work with family offices to best position the enterprise as an operating business enabling the family office to claim an ordinary and necessary business expense deduction.
Preserving and Protecting Family Wealth
The professionals in our Family Office Group routinely develop custom techniques to protect clients' wealth from potential liability, including promoting transparent and conflict-free transitions among generations in closely held businesses. We tailor plans for family members, giving consideration to the business impact, tax liabilities, personal risks, insurance coverage, asset holdings and philanthropy.
High-net-worth families also turn to Holland & Knight for our experience with sophisticated trust, administrative and estate planning. Our lawyers employ varied strategies to successfully protect and transfer wealth to family members and/or charities.
By necessity, our services extend beyond structure, operations, investment coordination and records management, into domestic and international tax, creditor protection, incentivizing family office personnel, labor and employment matters for domestic workers, nondisclosure agreements, regulatory matters, prenuptial agreement and divorce questions, real estate matters, architect agreements, insurance, art, aircraft, boats and intellectual property. Above all, discretion and privacy are paramount.
A 360-degree review addresses the gap between business planning and estate planning. We provide a formal analysis of a client's existing business structure and governing entity documents, current estate plan, cash flow from all sources, charitable goals, income tax issues, planning strategies to minimize transfer taxes, liquidity issues, domicile, distribution of collectibles, family business succession planning and exit strategies.
Holland & Knight's Suite of Services
Many of our competitors offer separate groups of lawyers that do not take a global approach to the family and do not understand the family and its needs. Other firms may refer a trust or estate dispute to a general litigator. At Holland & Knight, we work with our fiduciary litigation team that exclusively practices in this area. Additionally, across the firm, our professionals have a depth of experience in handling the unique needs of family office clients.
What Sets Holland & Knight Apart
We are committed to the long-term safeguarding of our clients' comprehensive interests – no matter what area of the law, business or family issues are involved. Our Family Office Group leverages the various practices and skills of more than 1,400 lawyers and other professionals practicing in Holland & Knight's 30 offices throughout the world.
Our clients utilize our Family Office Group to efficiently harmonize their family, businesses, investments, advisors, homes, fiduciaries and philanthropy. We do so by delivering industry-leading, customized services while working collaboratively with the family, its family office and its advisors.
Our attorneys' dedication to proactively anticipating our clients' needs and providing the highest level of responsive service gives Holland & Knight clients the confidence that their family's integrity and assets will be protected and preserved for generations.
- We routinely review architectural and construction contracts for clients building and renovating substantial properties. Our construction litigation attorneys routinely assist with the review and resolution where contractors and subcontractors do not perform as anticipated, securing lien releases and assignments of contracts as needed.
- Claim of Competing Ownership. We assisted a client with a valuable piece of art that was about to be sold at auction when a late claim of competing ownership arose, which required addressing the claim with authorities overseas in a manner designed to avoid adverse publicity and diminution in value should the claim be determined to be untrue.
- Valuations. Represented executors of the estate of a well-known contemporary artist whose personal collection was valued in excess of $1 billion; issues included blockage discount and disputed IRS' Art Advisory Panel valuations and charitable issues with the bulk of the collection passing to his foundation.
- Valuations. Represented executors of an estate of a prominent New York collector whose collection included original artwork by Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso and an extensive collection of French period furniture; entire collection was liquidated and dealt with IRS valuation issues involving the IRS' Art Advisory Panel and an extensive audit.
- Valuations. Representing executors of a very wealthy collector's estate where children are to receive art up to certain date of death valuations with excess passing to her foundation.
- Consignment and Auctions. Extensive experience working with Christie's, Sotheby's and other auction houses as well as dealers and art advisors in the valuation, retention and disposal of art collections.
- Consignment and Auctions. Firsthand experience working as an IRS estate and gift tax attorney handling several large estate collections, including one prominent artist working closely with the IRS' Art Advisory Panel and IRS valuation services.
- Lifetime Gifts. Assisted clients with the transfer of art to limited liability companies owned by and managed for children, to trusts that leverage current value versus future hoped-for value, and successfully transferred appreciation over value at the time of the gifts to the next generation in a tax-efficient way.
- Lifetime Gifts. Negotiated the use and benefit agreements with museums to assure that the donor's intention regarding the retention and display of art is maintained, rather than sold for the purpose of acquiring other art not consistent with the donor's preferences.
- Domestic and International Tax Issues. Settled an estate with art in the U.S. and in other countries where the art is subject to tax in both jurisdictions at differing values, but used to satisfy charitable bequests in part, successfully navigating the differing tax regimes.
- Domestic and International Tax Issues. Negotiated auction house contracts for the sale of art in connection with settling estates, including an estate with a coin collection worth about $10 million.
- Domestic and International Tax Issues. Structuring an art collection owned by a former Greek shipping magnate, now an investor and art collector residing on a private island in the Bahamas, to avoid imposition of U.S. estate taxes.
- A wealthy client couple sought to have a child through the use of a gestational surrogate and asked for our assistance to review the surrogacy contract, as well as to review a number of longstanding family irrevocable trusts to determine the child's status as a beneficiary thereunder. Working together with a California-based contract litigation partner, we reviewed the surrogacy contract and suggested changes for consistency in the approach throughout and made sure that the clients understood the risks and costs.
- A wealthy client had been paying domestic household employees "under the table." The client was risk averse in every other aspect of her life, but did not realize the legal implications of how she was paying her employees, nor the state law requirements concerning payment of overtime. At the same time, the client sought to terminate the services of one longtime employee. Working together with a labor and employment partner at Holland & Knight, we helped the client navigate the legal and social requirements to address the payroll and termination issues, including prohibitions on discussing her employment or the properties in which she was employed. We regularly provide simple nondisclosure provisions in employment agreements to ensure, to the extent possible, privacy for the family while not discouraging the potential employee from accepting the position.
- A client family with young children planned to travel abroad for a year with a paid tutor. We worked with the family's accountant to address income tax reporting requirements and compliance issues for wages paid to the tutor in the various countries where the family planned to stay for several weeks or months at a time.
- A client family with a large multiacre compound that included water features and equine facilities was hosting a large charitable event on the property. We worked with the client's family office and the charitable organization hosting the event to create waiver of liability documentation for attendees, including policies regarding the use of tobacco and drugs on the premises, prohibition on the taking and posting of pictures and details regarding the property and the owners on social media, as well as the supervision of minors, to be included as part of the event's online registration. The family and charity wished to avoid a sign-in process on the evening of the elegant affair by making the waiver of liability and rules for entering the premises as routine as possible.
We routinely negotiate contracts regarding the fractional ownership and rental of private business jets on behalf of our clients. We have been successful in the negotiation of additional short-leg waivers for our clients.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with a $52 million financing of a Gulfstream G650ER to a Brazilian high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a special purpose vehicle (SPV) owned by an ultra-high-net-worth individual in connection with its $50.5 million purchase of a new Dassault 2000LX aircraft.
- Purchase. Represented an SPV owned by an ultra-high-net-worth individual in connection with its 34.5 million euros purchase of a new Dassault Falcon 900LX aircraft.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with a $35 million financing of a Bombardier Global 7500 to a U.S.-based high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with a $20 million financing of a Gulfstream G450 to a Malaysian high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a United Kingdom bank in connection with the $18.5 million financing of two German registered Leonardo AW139 aircraft.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with an $11 million financing of a Bombardier Challenger 605 to a United Arab Emirates high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with an $11 million financing of a Gulfstream G550 to a Brazilian high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with a $10 million financing of a Bombardier Global Express XRS to an Indian high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented a financial institution in connection with a $10 million financing of a Cessna Citation 680 to a U.S.-based high-net-worth individual.
- Purchase. Represented an SPV owned by an ultra-high-net-worth individual in connection with its purchase of the first Gulfstream G700 aircraft to be registered in Europe.
- Purchase. Represented the owner of major professional sports teams in the acquisition of a large-cabin business jet, in complex international transaction that involved retaining local counsel in several foreign countries, negotiation of both loan and swap transactions, structuring the ownership and operations for tax considerations, and negotiating a charter management agreement with a major charter management company.
- Purchase. As a result of COVID-19 concerns, we are seeing a number of individuals and family offices considering private aviation for the first time. We have advised a number of these new entrants on this process and assisted in acquisitions of fractional shares, jet cards and whole aircraft.
- Sale. Recently represented the trustee in the sale of two large business aircraft as part of winding-up the estate of an individual.
- IRS Tax Dispute. Successfully represented a taxpayer who was audited by the IRS regarding its use of a corporate jet, which was leased to a C corporation. The IRS did not believe that the jet was being used for business, and as such the taxpayer could not deduct depreciation on the jet. The IRS also alleged that the aircraft lease was a passive activity. The IRS ultimately conceded the bonus depreciation issue, the passive loss issue and 91 percent of the travel expense issue. The IRS also allowed 70 percent of the flight hours as deductible travel.
- IRS Tax Dispute. Successfully represented a taxpayer in an asserted deficiency of approximately $43.5 million. The IRS challenged various adjustments relating to business jets, including that the documentation of the business purposes for the flights was not sufficient, reclassified deductible flights as nondeductible, disallowed bonus depreciation and disallowed deductions of one entity on the grounds that they related to the business of another entity.
- IRS Tax Dispute. Successfully represented a taxpayer in an aircraft tax audit. We settled the case at IRS Appeals in November 2019 for a 50 percent reduction in the proposed adjustment with no penalties.
- A client was being harassed by a former partner who threatened to release compromising videos of the client that would have had a detrimental effect on the client's reputation. Various attorneys worked to advise the client with respect to the complex issues involved and were able to successfully prevent the release of the extremely sensitive materials.
- Successfully represented an ultra-high-net-worth family whose housekeeper stole private correspondence detailing family secrets and then attempted to blackmail the family for its return.
- Represented a family matriarch and the Family Trust in the sale of a 68 percent interest in the family business to Fosun International, a Chinese conglomerate based in Shanghai. The family business manufactures and sells skincare products based on traditional Chinese medicine that are sold in 11 countries, including the U.S., Germany and China. This transaction involved complicated Chinese government approvals and was negotiated, signed and closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The family's manufacturing plant is located in Wuhan, China.
- Assisted a multigenerational family business operation in developing a family office structure to provide centralized management of the family business ventures. This representation included restructuring more than 50 operating entities, with varied ownership interests between family and nonfamily members, to aggregate all of the family interests into the family office ownership structure.
- Advised client on consolidation of legacy trust structure to maximize wealth preservation and wealth transfer across generations. Holland & Knight advised client on income taxation of partnership interests and structured new limited liability company (LLC) operating agreements to consolidate the client's investment management structure. Holland & Knight advised the client on leveraged estate planning using the restructured investment vehicles in order to achieve the client's business succession and wealth transfer goals.
- Advising a founder of a wealth management business recently acquired by the Hightower Advisors group on estate planning, S corporation and trust administration matters. Holland & Knight advised the client on restructuring existing holdings across a cumbersome network of more than 10 trusts in order to streamline administration and consolidate trusts.
- Advising a family with significant wealth (net worth in excess of US$8 billion) in the U.S. and multiple international jurisdictions and coordinated a restructuring of the family's entire trust and entity structure, including structuring a family office, including analysis of securities, regulatory matters, labor and employment matters, real estate matters and income tax issues in connection with deducting family office operating expenses.
- Representing a New York real estate family that owns more than $1 billion worth of real estate in upward of 100 entities to establish a private trust company to manage the family trusts and create a family office that is either a subsidiary of the family business or an independent entity that will be with/part of the business as they migrate from real estate to other types of investments.
- Advising a substantial private equity partner with respect to his own personal investments, reviewing subscription agreement terms and negotiating economic protections on behalf of the client and the client's family office.
- Representing a client and related family trusts in unwinding longstanding LLC structure intended by the family office to streamline the administration of various trusts for the family as the most conservative response to several U.S. tax cases concerning voting rights. This is a matter that involves opposing objectives of simplifying administration of complex structures, while minimizing the potential exposure to adverse tax consequences from a changing landscape of tax rulings.
- Representing a family whose total assets exceed $2.5 billion to provide comprehensive business succession, pre-liquidity planning and estate planning services related to creation of a family office structure to provide centralized management of family business ventures. The representation included restructuring more than 60 separate operating entities. The family office manages billions of dollars in investments.
- Representing a family office and each of Generation 1 and Generation 2 of a family whose total assets exceed $2 billion. We worked closely with individual family members, the family office staff, the family's outside accountant and the corporate trustee to develop and implement optimal solutions for the clients.
- Advised a family with significant wealth and its family office – net worth of approximately $1 billion, reflecting a substantial appreciation in their assets over the past year as a result of certain liquidity events that were planned.
- Advising a multigenerational family with significant wealth (net worth in excess of US$1.5 billion) in the U.S. and abroad, including the Bahamas and Scotland, to perform a complete overhaul of the family's estate plan, including implementing a family office structure.
- Advised a family office regarding structure and strategy of ongoing succession planning and continue to serve as corporate counsel after successfully resolving the family succession structure. Represented the family in litigation and negotiation regarding the business ownership following the senior generation's deaths and contests with the outside trustee. Continued representation of the family in gift and sale planning for a considerable portion of multiple family businesses to transition ownership to the next generation and provided advice on trust administration and beneficiary purchase of assets from the estate.
- Ongoing representation of a family whose total assets exceed $1 billion to provide comprehensive business succession, pre-liquidity planning and estate planning services related to creation of a family office structure to provide centralized management of family business ventures. The representation included restructuring more than 50 separate operating entities, with varied ownership interests between family and non-family members, to aggregate all family interests into the family office ownership structure.
- Advised the family office of Latin American family having U.S. and non-U.S. family members with nearly $2 billion of assets in restructuring their trust and corporate holdings to take into account changes in foreign and U.S. tax laws.