John Midgett & Todd Preti: Planning for Peace of Mind

John Midgett Todd Preti
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John Midgett and Todd Preti are law partners who have grown their firm to become one of the most recognized practices focused on estate planning and administration, estate and fiduciary litigation, estate and gift tax planning, guardianship, conservatorship, closely held businesses, and elder law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The entire staff is committed to focusing on the client and maintaining a collaborative working relationship to deal with ongoing complex financial matters.

Midgett & Preti PC helps people transfer their assets to their loved ones at the lowest possible cost. Oftentimes, this transfer occurs during a very difficult emotional time for the client or the client’s family. How the firm accomplishes that transfer depends on the individual’s wishes, what that person’s vision is for the future, how complex the financial challenges are or how simple and elegant the solutions might be. “What we do is a lot like what happens at a travel agency,” stated John Midgett. “People can describe where they want to go. We can get them there at the appropriate time and in the right vehicle.”

Estate Planning from Simple to Complex

At the most basic level, estate planning involves the transfer of assets by reason of death. Whether a will or a trust is involved, the concept is the same. When matters of complexity come into play, Midgett & Preti can execute an entire array of services to ensure that an individual’s wishes are carried out as they envisioned. Estate complexity depends on many factors. “The first factor is the character of the beneficiary. If the person receiving the benefit is a minor, if they are incompetent, incapacitated or incarcerated, then there are difficulties in receiving that benefit that need to be addressed in the planning process,” Midgett said. If the person transferring has many assets and a considerable amount of money to transfer, the federal government can come in and levy an excise tax which can entail a complex estate plan. (Federal estate taxes come in at $5 million per person, adjusted for inflation.)

Marriage also presents unique obstacles in the process. If an individual is married more than once, they may wish to give assets to their spouse and their own children but not to their spouse’s children. If a couple is unmarried, then this needs to be addressed beforehand. The law has specific ways it treats property and assets. “How should we plan to take care of an unmarried partner?” posed Midgett. “The estate planning problems of an unmarried couple are virtually identical to that of a married couple, but the solutions are not necessarily identical.”

With an estate plan many issues must be addressed: what needs to be accomplished, who is given the property, who is receiving the property and how the potholes between point A to point B are best avoided. The complexity is in how to avoid those potholes and Midgett and Preti have seen virtually every type of situation and know how best to prepare their clients to avoid and prevent adverse estate situations. “We also deal with what happens in the event of a disability. How do we make financial decisions? How do we make medical decisions and avoid the involvement of the court? And how do we make that clear so there are no interfamily disputes? That’s the type of planning for while you’re living, not just at death. We handle both sides of the equation,” Midgett explained.

Estate and Trust Administration

Even with the best planning, changes occur with assets, the law or within familial situations after a death. There are several strategies that Midgett and Preti can accomplish in post-mortem administration that could save a family hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of those ways is through new portability laws; the ability to carry forward the estate tax credit from the first person to pass away to their surviving spouse. It acts almost as an “unused coupon.” “The second person to die could conceivably convey $10 million of property without estate tax by utilizing this strategy,” noted Midgett. Each situation is different and can depend on many variables which are only compounded if a family is grieving while making important financial decisions. Midgett & Preti works with their clients compassionately and effectively to help them arrive at the best possible estate solutions.

Why Choose Midgett & Preti?

“On our license we are Attorneys and Counselors at Law. It’s not just knowing the law, but knowing how to apply it in an effective and efficient manner,” stated Midgett. There are other attorneys that practice estate law, so what sets this firm apart from the rest? “First and foremost, other attorneys refer us clients because they know we have the experience to help their client. They also know we’re not going to poach their clients from them. Typically, attorneys that refer to us are attorneys that don’t practice in this area and these are the only areas in which we practice,” explained Todd Preti. They pride themselves in being prompt, efficient and professional.

They are focused on doing what they do. “We have done this every day for decades. We teach other attorneys, trust officers, accountants and financial planners,” said Midgett. “We have to stay on top of the latest changes and be on the cutting edge. When an attorney sends somebody to us, they are protecting themselves from liability for making decisions in an area they are not as intimately familiar. They get peace of mind that they’ve referred a valued client, friend or family member to someone that does this, knows this and treats it seriously and returns the client in a way that reflects positively on their practice.”

Fiduciary Litigation

Sherri Nelson at Midgett & Preti has about fifteen years practicing fiduciary litigation. “Between John Midgett and Sherri Nelson, their estate fiduciary litigation experience is vast,” stated Preti. “Each associate in the firm is a valuable resource. Clients can count on the firm’s knowledge and experience to serve them well and client service is always the focus. “Fiduciary litigation can be very simple where we need to clarify or interpret what a will or trust says because sometimes the meaning isn’t clear from its face, or it could equally apply to two different things,” said Midgett. It branches from there to appointments of conservators and guardians, changing trusts and contests to wills or trusts where there has been fraud, undue influence or duress. They also seek recovery from trustees or executors who have done things improperly or illegally. The firm handles the broadest scope of matters that relate to fiduciary litigation.

Guardianship, Conservatorship and Elder Law

With certain matters, guardianship, conservatorship and elder law do come into play. Sherri Nelson handles the lion’s share of that part of the practice. “She’s become quite efficient in regards to the relatively new, Uniform Guardianship and Conservatorship Act. It’s become much more streamlined, but still has some complexity to it and Sherri is very familiar with it,” stated Preti. These areas of law become particularly tricky when people move to other states. Because Virginia has a high percentage of service men and women, the expertise of Midgett & Preti in dealing with guardianships and conservatorships is reflected in the work they do. “Elder law is something we do, but is more characterized by who we serve, rather than what we do. Elder law is not in and of itself a single law or set of laws. It’s a description of a number of different laws and circumstances affecting persons of a certain age group,” said Midgett. As baby boomers age, the firm will see more and more requested services that fall under the umbrella of elder law.

Family or Closely Held Business Law

Approximately half of what Todd Preti handles within the firm revolves around closely held businesses and succession planning. “I try and help clients integrate their overall estate plan with their succession planning for their business, especially if there are children that work in the business and maybe some that don’t,” said Preti. A good succession plan is like a good estate plan. “If you don’t put in writing what you want, then the law is going to tell everybody what is going to happen. We try to help the client understand that with planning, the law is not deciding, they are deciding what happens to their business,” Preti noted. The most important component is just walking the client through the process of their vision of the future and succession of ownership. It could involve retirement or death, but all scenarios are explored to help the business owner decide what they would like to see for the future of their company. “Our job is to help them make those decisions in a logical and efficient fashion to save their family unnecessary legal costs and taxation,” added Midgett.

The Work Dynamic at Midgett & Preti

The group at Midgett & Preti has a very collaborative approach. For example, Brenda Wagner recently joined the firm. She holds a master’s in taxation. She’s involved in many administration and planning issues in an effort to reduce taxes on many levels. Her focus is on the federal tax laws, knowing how to keep costs down for their clients.

John Midgett and Todd Preti originally met through a dynamic mentorship program many years ago and they have translated that unique relationship to a collaborative one that they share with each person at the firm. “It’s a team approach. We take turns driving the car to get us to the right destination. Everyone contributes,” said Midgett.

“In our office, it’s very open. Anyone can walk into anyone else’s office and ask them questions and talk to them about matters,” said Preti. “It’s an open door policy for everyone which helps to maintain a free line of communication for everyone. It serves the best interest of our clients,” finished Preti “and that is the bottom line to our approach to the practice of law.

Lynette Carrington

Lynette Carrington is a freelance writer who has worked with Attorney at Law Magazine for more than seven years to bring readers the stories of stand out lawyers and law firms.

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