Course Descriptions

Home   >  Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning   >  Course Descriptions

The following course descriptions outline a typical year's curriculum in the Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning. Changes in the program may be made from time to time.

Fall Semester

Corporate Tax: This course is designed to teach the fundamentals principles of corporate taxation. The course will examine the tax aspects of incorporating and liquidating a corporations; the taxation of corporate distributions, redemptions, mergers, and acquisitions and other corporate transactions. (2 credits)

Federal Wealth Transfer Tax: An examination of federal estate, gift and generation skipping transfer taxes; property included in the gross estate, including prior transfers with retained powers and interests, property subject to powers of appointment, life insurance, annuities, and jointly owned property; valuation; expenses; marital deduction; and the definition of taxable gifts, including transfers in revocable and irrevocable trusts, and gifts to minors. This course provides the foundation for the advanced level courses on the wealth transfer tax system offered in the spring. (3 credits)

Income Tax for Estate Planners: This course is designed to provide an introduction to both basic and advanced income tax principles that are the foundational building blocks for the other courses offered in the estate-planning program. It is designed to provide an overall picture of how these principles relate to each other, so that the student can better understand the objectives of the planning techniques covered in the specialized courses offered later in the program. The topics covered include the income tax treatment of liabilities, annuities, life insurance, gifts and bequests; the charitable deduction; the time value of money concept and the OID rules; assignment of income; restricted stock and stock options; depreciation recapture; installment sales; like-kind exchanges; and the income tax treatment of deferred compensation. (2 credits)

Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates: A study of the income taxation of estates, trusts, and their beneficiaries; distributable net income; distribution deductions for simple trusts, complex trusts and estates; distributions in kind; the planning of funding marital trusts; postmortem estate planning; taxation of trusts for minors; charitable and foreign trusts; assignment of income; income in respect of a decedent; the grantor trust rules; and income tax basis problems. (3 credits)

Introduction to the Probate Process: This course introduces students to the probate administration process by examining the Uniform Probate Code and the pragmatic aspects of probate proceedings as well as the attorney's role as counselor in this context. (1 credit)

Partnership Tax: This course will cover the federal income tax treatment of partners and partnerships (including the taxation of limited liability companies and other entities treated as partnerships for income tax purposes). Topics to be covered include: (i) what is a partnership? (ii) the entity theory versus the aggregate theory of partnership taxation; (iii) capitalization of a partnership, including contributions of appreciated or depreciated property; (iv) taxation of ongoing partnership operations; (v) partnership distributions; (vi) partnership allocations and substantial economic effect; (vii) inside and outside basis determinations and the treatment of liabilities under section 752; (viii) partnership terminations; (xii) section 754 and other special basis elections. The course will also cover the taxation of S corporations, focusing primarily on the organization, operation, and termination of S corporations, while contrasting them with other forms of business entities. (3 credits)

Spring Semester

Asset Protection Planning: This course will examine the techniques and legal strategies utilized to obtain maximum wealth protection, including exemption planning, limited liability entities, domestic trusts, self-settled trusts and offshore trusts. Discussions will include income, estate and gift tax consequences of utilizing such strategies and an analysis of fraudulent transfer principles, ethical considerations, and case law developments. (1 credit)

Chapter 14: This course will examine in depth the provisions of IRC Chapter 14, the special rules for valuing property for transfer tax purposes. The course will examine the operation of the rules under each of the four sections of the chapter and the impact of each of the rules on the valuation of transfers of property. It will cover the operation of each section and planning alternatives for transfers of interests in business organizations and transfers in trust. (1 credit)

Charitable Gifts and Foundations : An examination of the income and transfer tax consequences of gifts to charities; uses of public charities and private foundations in the estate planning process; split interest gifts to charities; and factors to consider in drafting charitable gifts and bequests. (1 credit)

Dispositions of the Family Business: This course examines the use of intra-family deferred payment sales, such as installment sales, private annuities and SCINs in disposing of the closely-held business and investment assets such as real estate and marketable securities, either to the next generation or as exit strategies for cash. An empirical analysis, using financial projection software, of intra-family deferred payment sales, GRATs, charitable lead trusts, and preferred family limited partnerships is used to determine the most appropriate technique for a particular individual. The income tax impact and income tax planning techniques are an integral part of this course. (1 credit)

Drafting and Preparation of Estate Plans : This course will focus on the skills required for a successful drafting practice (both document drafting and practice management), including ascertaining a client's dispositive intentions through skilled interview techniques, diagnosis of tax and non-tax issues by the application of theoretical knowledge to the client's specific facts, further consultation with the client to refine the dispositive intentions as necessary to take into account the lawyer's recommendations, and communicating through complex documents without distorting the client's intentions. The course assumes a general familiarity with the income, gift, estate, and generation-skipping taxes. (1 credit)

Drafting for Estate Planners : This course will focus on the skills required for a successful drafting practice (both document drafting and practice management), including ascertaining a client's dispositive intentions through skilled interview techniques, diagnosis of tax and non-tax issues by the application lf theoretical knowledge to the client's specific facts, further consultation with the client to refine the dispositive intentions as necessary to take into account the lawyer's recommendations, and communication through complex documents without distorting the client's intentions. The course assumes a general familiarity with the income, gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes. (1 credit)

Elder Law: This course will examine the legal and financial problems affecting aging or incapacitated clients and a study of advanced planning techniques for asset protection and management systems for clients who become unable to make decisions or manage their affairs, including health care decisions; housing options; review of the use of trusts; durable powers of attorney; advance directives for health care; financing long term care; Medicare; Medicaid; guardianship issues; the special ethical issues of working with older clients; the income, gift and estate tax issues involved in "lifetime planning"; and the use of health insurance and long term care insurance. (1 credit)

Ethical and Practical Aspects of Estate Planning: This course focuses on the ethical and practical problems that a lawyer may encounter in various estate planning contexts. Special consideration is given to interaction with clients, including problems of representing multiple clients, fiduciaries, and disabled persons. Readings and problems also raise issues that involve questions of competence, conflicts of interest, fees, and confidentiality. (1 credit)

Fiduciary Administration: This course will consider selected problems in the administration of trusts and estates; appointment and qualification of fiduciaries; ancillary administration; fiduciary powers and duties, including investment duties and powers, operation of decedent's business, delegation and splitting of duties, and discretionary distribution problems; the effect of exercising powers of appointment; apportionment of taxes among the estate, trust, other entities and beneficiaries; and fiduciary accounting, including allocation of receipts and expenses. The course will also cover the application of principles set forth in recent uniform acts, including the Prudent Investor Act, the Principle and Income Act and the Uniform Trust Code. (1 credit)

Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax: This course will provide an in-depth examination of the generation-skipping transfer tax, particularly including the effective date provisions, utilization of available exemptions and exclusions, and the manner of computing the tax based on the nature of the transfer. (1 credit)

Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning: In January, students are invited to attend the weeklong Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, the nation's leading continuing education program for estate planning professionals.

Insurance Planning: This course will analyze the taxation of and planning for life insurance in an estate planning context, including a description of various life insurance products, how to read and understand life insurance policy illustrations, the statutory definitions of life insurance in an estate planning context and modified endowment contracts, the income tax and transfer tax consequences of the use of life insurance in estate planning, the planning and drafting of irrevocable insurance trusts (including an analysis of a sample form irrevocable insurance trust and related drafter's notes), and the use of more sophisticated techniques involving life insurance, such as split-dollar and premium financing techniques. (1 credit)

International Estate Planning: This course will examine the income, gift and estate tax issues facing non-resident, non-citizen individuals investing in, or moving to, the United States, and of United States persons investing or working abroad, including residence, domicile, and situs issues; expatriation as a factor in estate planning; the income taxation of foreign trusts and their beneficiaries, including tax rules on the residence of trusts; grantor trust rules applying to foreign and United States grantors; a comparison of trusts to other comparable foreign entities, such as stiftungs and anstalts; the problems of the multi-country estate; ethical issues involved in international money transfers and the current anti-terrorist initiatives of the United States and the Financial Action Task Force Against Money Laundering; an analysis of United States estate tax treaties and the new income tax exchange of information treaties with tax havens; and related issues. As time permits, non-tax issues such as forced heirs and community property will also be reviewed. (1 credit)

Investment Planning: This course will provide an overview of wealth management and investment planning. Topics will include the different approaches to asset management, asset allocation and portfolio construction, manager selection and due diligence, alternative investments, and single stock risk management. The material will be presented through a combination of lectures and case studies. (1 credit)

Marital Deduction Planning: This course focuses on the uses and importance of the marital deduction; when and to what extent to use the deduction, including estate equalization, use of disclaimers, and partial QTIP elections; the use of formula provisions and the various vehicles available for qualification; analysis of allowable funding options and their advantages or disadvantages; the effects of forced heirs, administration expenses and taxes; and selected marital deduction clauses. (1 credit)

Planning for Distributions from Qualified Plans, IRAs and Non-Qualified Plans: This course will focus on planning for distributions during the life and at the death of the owner of the benefits. Consideration will be given to the types of retirement and deferred compensation plans available and to the rules relating to minimum required distributions, choosing a designated beneficiary, spousal consents and the taxation of benefits. (1 credit)

Tax Procedure: This course focuses on the preparation and planning of gift, estate, and fiduciary income tax returns; the administrative process involved in an audit, including settlement procedures and administrative remedies; interest and penalties; the tax collection process; ethical considerations relating to estate tax matters; and the most current issues and how they are addressed at the audit level. (1 credit)

Valuation: This course will examine the significance of "value" and "fair market value" for federal tax purposes and the legal authorities describing valuation methodologies applied for such purposes. Determination of the fair market value of tangible personal property, real property, and business interests (including FLPs) for federal transfer tax purposes will be examined in depth. (1 credit)


Alfred J. Stashis, Jr. - LL.M. 2006"The LL.M. in Estate Planning prepared me well to enter a sophisticated estate planning and administration practice.  It provided an opportunity to explore both the substantive and theoretical aspects of federal tax law and the practical applications of that law to the planning techniques I now regularly use with clients. Moreover, the program gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from the leading national scholars and practitioners who comprise its esteemed faculty".

Alfred J. Stashis, Jr. - LL.M. 2006
Dunwody White & Landon, P.A.
Naples, Florida


Established Attorneys Redirect Careers with LL.M. in Estate Planning