Kristof G. Koletar
Attorney at Law
Hunter Law Firm
B.A., Criminal Justice, Seton Hall University
J.D., William & Mary School of Law
What services within elder law are you best known for?
Estate and financial planning, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, multi-generational “dynasty” trust planning, business formation and succession arrangements, post-mortem estate administration, real estate transfers, and real property title issues.
Please describe a signature case or representation.
My “favorite” case was the time a client casually neglected to mention that she had a $23 million overseas trust account (she thought she could get away with hiding it from the IRS). Based on the financial information she did share, I wrote a basic revocable living trust for her that would avoid probate and split her estate equally between her kids.
Shortly after her death, I got a call from a CPA asking if I knew anything about the $23 million she had stashed away in Liechtenstein, and I realized that we were working with a revocable trust that was WILDLY inappropriate for this situation. After 18 months of work, including multiple international conference calls with the trustees, recreating 10 years of tax returns that were never filed, and an $8.5 million payment to the IRS, we managed to get the estate released to the beneficiaries free and clear.
What do you find most satisfying about law practice?
Solving a client’s problems. Each client’s financial and family situation is unique, and figuring out how the pieces of the puzzle can fit together to produce the most effective outcome can be challenging and almost fun at times.
Describe your approach to advising clients.
I consider it to be my job to make my clients’ lives easier, not more complicated. It’s already difficult enough for people to discuss death or long-term care issues, and even more difficult to navigate something like a probate process, so I always look for the most streamlined way to accomplish the client’s goals.
What is the best career advice you’ve received?
It’s a small thing, but when I was working as a part-time legal assistant in college, my boss advised me that the best way to learn legal practice was to “read everything that comes across your desk.” That stuck with me, and to this day I make it a point to check out all the paperwork I find, especially the material that doesn’t pertain to my area of practice. It’s remarkable how much you can pick up just by observing. Thanks, Carl!
What developments or changes in elder law do you expect to see in the coming year?
Sweeping changes to estate tax laws have recently been proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee that would lower the lifetime exemption amount, effectively cripple grantor trusts and irrevocable life insurance trusts, and significantly limit the ability to take valuation discounts on family-owned business interests. Thankfully, the proposal to eliminate capital gains basis step-up wasn’t included in this framework, but I figure it’s more likely than not that at least some of these provisions will find their way into the Tax Code.