Private Client Services


Our Philanthropy Practice Group brings together estate planning attorneys who are well-versed in the intricacies of the tax laws relating to charitable giving with colleagues who regularly counsel operating charities, private foundations and other tax-exempt organizations. This ability to recognize and analyze issues from both perspectives — the individual donor's and the charitable organization's — allows our attorneys to better advise clients on how to structure their charitable gifts and how to administer gifts that have been made.

Whether you are interested in establishing a charitable remainder trust, a charitable lead trust or a private foundation, or perhaps just want to make a simple bequest in a will, our attorneys are ready to advise you about income tax and estate tax charitable deduction issues, tax exemption and compliance issues, the design of gift restrictions and donor intent. We also advise trustees and foundation managers about gift acceptance policies, the interpretation of gift restrictions, and compliance and operational issues that can arise, for example, under the Prudent Investor Act, the prohibited transaction rules and the excise tax rules.

Recent projects have included:

  • establishment of a private foundation for a renowned photographer who wants his works sold following his death so as to fund educational programs in science and nature studies for young people in the New York metropolitan area;
  • termination of a charitable remainder trust created many years ago, which benefited the grantors with income security during their lives. The remaining trust assets have now been distributed to three local charities whose mission the grantors wanted to make sure could continue for the betterment of their community;
  • advice concerning the transfer of hundreds of endowment gifts in connection with an acquisition of the assets of an operating charity by another operating charity, with careful attention to the preservation of donor intent;
  • advice concerning the donation of valuable shoreline real estate to a local land trust so that the natural habitat can be maintained and enjoyed for generations to come; and
  • advice to a hedge fund founder about the complex issues presented when contributing interests in the fund to various types of charitable vehicles, and advice to an executive of a public company concerning a gift of stock to a charity subject to SEC Rule 144 restrictions.

Fiduciary duties are an important cornerstone of the charitable sector, but sometimes things can go wrong. Our attorneys have significant litigation experience and, if necessary, are ready to draw on that experience and the expertise of colleagues to defend the interests of donors and charitable beneficiaries.

  • For example, one recent litigation matter involved the successful defense of a private charitable foundation in a will contest. Charitable institutions that had benefited under the decedent's prior wills challenged the decedent's last will, which benefited only her private foundation.

Wiggin and Dana also has a Tax Exempt Organizations Practice Group which focuses on the unique needs of operating charities in areas such as corporate governance, endowment funding and accounting, and the special restrictions on compensation and benefits that apply only to tax-exempt organizations. For more information about our Tax Exempt Organizations Practice Group, click here. We also represent numerous schools, colleges and universities and dozens of hospitals and other tax-exempt healthcare organizations. For information about our Education Practice Group, click here, and for information about our Tax Exempt Health Care Practice Group, click here.