L. Westcott Hicks, Jr.
Santa Monica Office
3250 Ocean Park Blvd. Suite 350 Santa Monica, CA 90405
Biography: Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, L. Westcott Hicks, Jr. (“Wes”) graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Wes received his J.D. degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and earned an LL.M. (in Taxation) from New York University School of Law. He is admitted to practice in California and Illinois, the United States Tax Court and the Federal District Court for the Central District of California. He is also a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Wes actively participates in the Taxation Section and the Trusts and Estates Section of each of these bar associations. He has taught in the University of Southern California and Golden Gate University graduate tax programs and is currently an instructor in Estate Planning at Santa Monica College, Emeritus Division. Wes has remained active in the Northwestern University Alumni Association and has served on the Board of Trustees of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California. To unwind, Wes enjoys, music, film and is an avid cyclist.
Areas of Practice: A broad range of state and local, federal and international tax, probate and business matters. These include and range from tax planning to tax compliance and controversies, estate planning, probate and estate administration and litigation and business transactions. Wes represents private and publicly held corporations, partnerships, individuals, fiduciaries and tax-exempt organizations.
Areas of Focus: Wes’s practice is built upon the foundation of his extensive tax background and also emphasizes probate administration and estate and trust litigation.
In the course of his tax practice, Wes becomes involved in the preparation of estate planning documents, business documents, ruling requests, protests, briefs, opinion letters and disclosure documents. His tax controversy practice involves both administrative and judicial proceedings. In addition to representing clients of Hicks, Mims, Kaplan and Burns, Wes also provides tax expertise to other law firms. Another area of Wes’s tax practice includes compliance and collection matters. He often represents individual and business clients in non-filing, tax fraud, payroll tax and collection matters. These often involve negotiations with tax authorities, which result in the abatement of penalties, the compromise of tax liabilities pursuant to offers in compromise or the acceptance of an installment payment arrangement.
A significant portion of Wes’s tax practice involves estate planning for domestic and international clients. Wes advises clients regarding revocable inter vivos trusts, gift programs, powers of attorney, family limited partnerships, irrevocable insurance trusts, grantor-retained annuity trusts, grantor-retained income trusts, grantor-retained unitrusts, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, and generation-skipping trusts. These estate planning tools are utilized in minimizing the impact of probate and tax costs on transferring wealth from generation to generation. Wes also assists clients in planning for incompetency and protecting their estates from depletion by the costs of long term care.
An important adjunct to Wes’s estate planning practice is his work in probate administration, incapacity matters, and disputes over the disposition or recovery of estate assets. Wes has played an important role in working with other firm members to secure substantial awards and recoveries in estate and elder abuse litigation matters.
Wes’s representation of corporate clients in federal tax matters includes the tax aspects of the formation and capitalization of new corporations, corporate financial planning and treasury decisions, mergers, acquisitions and other reorganizations, liquidations, and net operating loss planning. The corporations involved have ranged from small, closely held corporations with sales of under $5 million to publicly held Fortune 100 multinational companies. Regardless of the size of the client or the nature of its business, Wes seeks creative solutions that enable the client to attain its business objectives while minimizing tax risks. These solutions may include the use of entities such as limited liability companies or partnerships as an alternative to the corporation.
Wes’s partnership tax practice is extensive and includes all aspects of partnership taxation. He is adept at structuring partnership allocation provisions that will achieve the economic objectives of the partners and be fully recognized for tax purposes. Although many of the partnerships advised by him are offered to investors through private syndications, others are closely held businesses in which all partners are principals. Wes also works with partnerships that have been unfortunate enough to encounter difficult economic times or other business obstacles that have required the restructuring of their allocation provisions as well as partnership debt. Often he becomes involved in planning for partnership distributions, the sale and exchange of partnership interests, and the liquidation and termination of a partnership. Advising other lawyers in complex partnership litigation is also a significant aspect of Wes’s practice.
In the course of advising business clients, employee benefit and compensation issues invariably arise. This portion of Wes’s practice involves the structuring of stock option programs; the development of fringe benefit programs, as well as the treatment of specific benefits; the implementation of nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements such as Rabbi trusts; and issues arising in the context of qualified retirement plans. Employment agreements raise material tax issues such as termination payments, which may be impacted by the “golden parachute” rules.
In addition to the many business organizations that regularly encounter tax issues, Wes also advises exempt organizations regarding both organizational and operational issues. These include the qualification for and maintenance of exempt status, and the impact of the private foundation rules on organization operations, as well as the impact of any unrelated business activities of an organization, including joint ventures with nonexempt entities.
Federal tax accounting rules have provided taxpayers significant opportunities for the deferral of income taxes. One of the most important of these, the completed-contract method of tax accounting, provided the aerospace industry with huge tax deferrals. Wes was involved in the interpretation and implementation of those rules to maximize tax deferrals. These deferrals were often large enough to wipe out earnings and profits for tax accounting purposes and enable a company to pay its shareholders tax free dividends. Other tools for tax deferral utilized in Wes’s practice include the depreciation and amortization of capital assets and the installment method of reporting gain
In addition to his federal tax practice, a significant portion of Wes’s practice involves state and local tax matters. These have included California sales and use tax, income tax, property tax and payroll tax matters; Hawaii income tax; Massachusetts income tax; New Mexico and Washington gross receipts taxes; Los Angeles business license tax; and various collection matters. Although a portion of his state and local tax practice includes planning and requests for rulings, it consists primarily of tax controversies, which are generally resolved through both formal and informal hearings.
Wes has represented clients involved in both inbound and outbound international transactions. Inbound matters include advising clients on structuring their investments in U.S. assets and businesses as well as the formation of joint ventures between both private and government entities. Wes’s inbound practice also includes advising clients who wish to distribute their products in the U.S., as well as developers marketing time-share interests in the U.S. Wes also advises nonresident clients regarding their exposure to U.S. income taxation. A large portion of his outbound international practice has involved the advising of clients engaged in the export of products, services and technology. In addition to advising clients as to the appropriate structure for the export activity, Wes has also been active in the negotiation of contracts and the creation of foreign and domestic entities to implement the export transaction. Wes’s international tax planning practice involves the utilization of tax treaties, tax havens, and tax holidays where appropriate. This planning, of course, is done in the context of the U.S.-controlled foreign corporation rules.
Wes has advised businesses operating in Latin America, the Far East, the United Kingdom, the European Economic Community and the Middle East. Many of these operations involved joint ventures with foreign businesses and governments.
Wes’s practice has also included significant non tax business matters such as general corporate law; manufacturing, construction and other business contracts; corporate divestitures and acquisitions; partnerships; limited liability companies; securities; and dispute resolution.
Laguna Niguel Office
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 300
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Biography: Mr. Mims was born in New York, New York in 1947. He received a B.S. from Claremont McKenna College in 1969 and a J.D. from Hastings College of Law at the University of California, San Francisco in 1972. From 1971 to 1972, he served as a Note and Comment Editor for the Hastings Law Journal. He is a member of the Order of the Coif and the Thurston Society. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in January 1973 while on active duty in the United States Army, Infantry. He is a member of the California State Bar Association, the Litigation Sections of California State Bar Association, the Estates and Trusts Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and a member of the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Volunteer Panel.
Areas of Practice: Civil and probate litigation: Dozens of trials, including jury and non-jury, and arbitrations. He has resolved hundreds of disputes for his clients in advance of trial both directly with opposing counsel, or through mediation. Included among litigated matters are contract disputes, probate litigation, franchisor/franchisee disputes, corporate and partnership dissolution matters, and coverage disputes.
Area of focus: Most of my practice is devoted to probate and trust litigation and administration, conservatorship litigation and representation. These include will and trust contests; contested and non-contested conservatorship cases, contested accountings, trustee, executor and administrator removal matters, elder abuse matters, estate and trust property recovery actions and seeking attendant provisional relief and remedies.
Cases of Interest: The regents of the University of California vs David Kraus ::
Stephen L. Kaplan
Laguna Niguel Office
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 300
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Biography: Mr. Kaplan was a Certified Public Accountant before he began practicing law, and is admitted to practice law before the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Kaplan graduated from Claremont McKenna College in 1982 and Loyola Law School in 1986.
Areas of Practice: Mr. Kaplan is a highly experienced civil and probate litigator who has tried dozens of contingency and non-contingency cases involving complex transactions, inheritance disputes and financial elder abuse schemes. Over the past five years alone, Mr. Kaplan obtained judgments exceeding $18 million and was trial counsel in three widely quoted published opinions: In re Cutter, 398 B.R. 6 (2008), Estate of Thottam, 165 Cal. App. 4th 1331 (2008) and Regents of the University of California v. Kraus, 184 Cal.App.4th 103 (2010).
Areas of Focus: Because of his accountancy background, Mr. Kaplan’s analysis of legal disputes usually begins with an examination of financial records to determine whether litigation is cost effective. Litigation costs too often spiral out of control because few litigators are both trained businessman and zealous advocates for their clients. Referrals from clients, accountants, estate planners and other attorneys are a large and gratifying part of Mr. Kaplan’s practice. Mr. Kaplan frequently acts as local litigation counsel or co-counsel for colleagues throughout North and South America, and assists them in being admitted pro hac vice.