Deborah advises individual clients and multiple generations of families how to preserve and protect assets for their intended beneficiaries. This important work includes lessening transfer taxes, both during lifetime and after death, with sophisticated planning techniques such as lifetime gifts to grantor trusts, the use of charitable trusts and private foundations, family limited partnerships, qualified personal residence trusts and private annuities.
Deborah counsels clients in the establishment and administration of special needs trusts for disabled individuals, including self-settled special needs trusts for the protection of personal injury settlements and judgments. In addition, she advises clients regarding opportunities to protect significant retirement accounts from the creditors of designated beneficiaries.
Having extensive experience in trust and estate administration, including many years within a major bank trust department, Deborah guides executors and trustees through the maze of issues which impact fiduciaries in complex trust and estate matters such as avoiding probate, cy pres, the tax benefits of disclaimers and the disposition of jewelry, art and private collections. She advises individual and corporate fiduciaries, representing them in litigation and providing legal opinions, about the proper and prudent fulfillment of their duties including the establishment and maintenance of policies and procedures for risk management, asset management and administration, investment, diversification, conflict of interest and dispute resolution.
Business owners seek Deborah's counsel as they formulate succession plans and contemplate the transition of their business interests, whether by sale or gift. She helps these clients address the unique planning issues they face, including asset protection and the need for liquidity in the event of the incapacity and death of the business owner.
- 2012 Harold Soloveitzik Professional Leadership Award from The Rhode Island Foundation. This award is presented annually to someone in the professional services industry who is committed to advising clients on the importance and value of philanthropic giving as part of the estate planning process.
- AV® Preeminent Rated from Martindale-Hubbell, highest possible rating on both legal ability and ethics based upon the confidential opinion of peers and judges.
- On behalf of clients, the vested remainder beneficiaries of three irrevocable trusts totally about $30 million in assets, successfully developed a complex tax plan including maximizing the preservation of generation skipping transfer tax exempt assets. Concurrently, avoided possible litigation with an attorney serving in the role of independent trustee who had ignored this important tax planning opportunity.
- Successfully negotiated resignation of trustee, after several decades in place, and change of situs on behalf of current and remainder beneficiaries.
- Contested guardianship matters: successfully protected vulnerable elderly clients, some of whom have limited capacity and faculties, from financial abuse and possible theft or fraud, through creation of trusts for the benefit of these elderly clients. Included work with RI Department of Elderly Affairs to identify questionable practices by family members and unrelated third parties.
- Successfully defended co-trustees (a family member and corporate fiduciary) from suit filed by the son of the grantor of a generation skipping exempt irrevocable trust in an effort to force the trustees to make distributions from the trust to pay off the creditors of his failing business. Counseling the son on the asset protection benefits of the trust resulted in a settlement which protected all of the trust beneficiaries.
- Defended a corporate trustee sued by the trust grantor for investment losses which the trust grantor claimed were due to the trustee’s negligent management of the trust investments during turbulent times. An intensive mediation process resulted in a settlement favorable to our client, which was carefully brokered to limit our client’s exposure to the risks, legal fees, and costs of trial.
- Represented successor co-trustees (a family member and corporate fiduciary) who filed suit against the prior trustee for breach of fiduciary duty on multiple counts. Our efforts resulted in preservation of a special needs trust for the adult disabled son of the trust grantor.
- Successfully represented a group of potential beneficiaries in a contested matter concerning the interpretation of a multi-million dollar trust required to terminate at the death of the last surviving income beneficiary.
- New Federal Tax Legislation Impacts Executors AND Beneficiaries
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, January 2016
- Recent Legislation Brings Rhode Island out of the Past and into the Present in the Area of Adult Guardianships
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, October 2015
- “A Life Insurance Review Can Provide Positive Investment and Planning Results”
PARTRIDGE SNOW & HAHN LLP STEPPING STONES, SPRING 2013
- “Federal Estate Tax Laws Allow Planning Opportunities - Finally!”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, February 2013
- “Proposed and Temporary Regulations Addressing Portability”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, August 2012
- “Planning to Preserve a Child’s Inheritance in the Event of a Divorce”
PARTRIDGE SNOW & HAHN LLP STEPPING STONES, WINTER 2011
- “Guidance for Executors of 2010 Decedents’ Estates; Due Date for Form 8939”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, August 2011
- “Form 8939, Where Art Thou?”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, July 2011
- “Impact of Bankruptcy Filing by Beneficiary of Decedent's Estate”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, March 2011
Representative Speaking Engagements
- “Decision Making with Your Elder: Walking that Thin Line”
PS&H WAVE seminar, July 2014
- “Purse, Power & Planning: A roundtable discussion just for women.”
Women’s Planning Initiative, October 2013
- “How the RIDEA and the OHHS Can Help You and Your Older Clients”
Rhode Island Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2013
- “2012 Estate and Gift Tax Planning – With or Without New legislation”
Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants, 2012
- TGIF Series (Thank Goodness I’m the Fiduciary)
- “Litigation Mitigation for Trustees”
Rockland Trust Company, 2011; Parsons Capital Management, 2012
- “Special Needs Trusts”
BNY Mellon, 2010
- “2010 Decedents' Estates and Post-2010 Estate and Gift Tax Planning Issues”
Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants, 2011
- “Examining the Role of the Charitable Giving and Fiduciary Counsel: Are You Looking Beyond the Bequest?”
Rhode Island Bar Association 2011 Annual Meeting, 2011
- “The Importance of Life Care Planning and Preserving Your Estate for Your Family and Community”
Newport Hospital, 2012, 2010; St. James Lutheran Church, 2011
- “Women’s Intergenerational Communications, Money: How to Talk About It and Why”
Women’s Planning Initiative 2011
- “Preserving Your Estate For Your Family and Community”
Bryant University Women’s Summit ®, 2011
- “Unique Challenges Facing Non-Traditional Couples”
Financial Planners Association, 2011
- “What Every Charitable Beneficiary Should Know”
The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Rhode Island, 2010
- American Bar Association
- Rhode Island Bar Association
- The Catholic Foundation of Rhode Island
- Board of Governors, Chair
- Hattie Ide Chaffee Home
- Planned Giving Advisory Council
- The Wheeler School
- Gift Planning Advisory Council
- The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Rhode Island
- Former Board of Directors
- Former Co-Chair, Leave a Legacy of Rhode Island