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A. Max Kohlenberg

Partner

Education

Northeastern University, School of Law, J.D.
Wesleyan University B.A., magna cum laude

Bar Admissions

Massachusetts
Rhode Island

Court Admissions

U.S. District Court - Massachusetts
U.S. District Court - Rhode Island
United States Tax Court

Recognition

Best Lawyers, New England, 2015
Best Lawyers in America, 2001-2014
Super Lawyers, 2008-2016

Professional & Community Involvement

  • Board Chair, Community Preparatory School in Providence
  • Director, The Westport (MA) Land Conservation Trust, Inc.
  • Trustee, The Commonwealth School in Boston
  • Past President, The Audubon Society of Rhode Island
  • Estate Planning Council of Rhode Island
  • Boston Bar Association
  • Massachusetts Bar Association
  • Rhode Island Bar Association

On A More Personal Note

Max and his wife, Rebecca Minard have two sons whose post-collegiate pursuits fill him with admiration. Max (with reasonable constraint) indulges a weakness for traditional watercraft and antique trucks.

401.283.1239
mkohlenberg@hekblaw.com
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In 2014, Max joined his partners in the formation of Howland Evangelista Kohlenberg Burnett LLP in the 30th year of practicing law. Throughout his years of practice he's focused his expertise in complex estate and trust planning, with particular emphasis on representing multigenerational family groups, professionals, executives and owners of closely held businesses.

While always taking advantage of tax minimization opportunities, Max believes that the best planning begins with an unhurried process in which the clients provide a frank and detailed introduction to themselves, their family, their financial circumstances and their vision of the future (including both the wished-for and the feared). Only with this understanding can planning be undertaken which truly addresses the clients’ needs in a manner that is consistent with their values and their vision. The estate plan itself, whether quite straightforward or very complex, will always emphasize flexibility, in the expectation that as the family matures and circumstances evolve the ability to adjust the plan will be of paramount importance. The minimization of gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes (as well as income taxes) is never overlooked, of course, and the balancing of planning goals and tax minimization is integral to every plan.

Although estate planning is almost always a happier process than estate settlement, Max is fully conversant in the latter and knows how to take advantage of every “post-mortem” planning opportunity that may benefit the family thereafter. In both the context of a settled estate as well as in “inter-vivos” planning Max frequently serves as a trustee for his clients or their children.

In addition to his core estate planning and trust practice, Max has developed particular expertise in helping families to preserve and the “heirloom” properties that many families consider their most precious assets. In this context Max often works closely with private conservation organizations, as well as federal and state agencies, to integrate land conservation strategies into heirloom property planning. For an introduction to Max’s work, albeit written primarily for practitioners, you may wish to look at this article: A Practical Guide To Estate Planning in Rhode Island - Planning Involving Vacation and Second Homes in Rhode Island.

Max has been listed in the Trusts & Estates section of The Best Lawyers in America for over 5 years and has been included in the Rhode Island Super Lawyers listing in the area of Estate Planning & Probate by Thomson Reuters.

NOTABLE EXPERIENCE

  • Assisted five siblings with limited financial resources in developing a mechanism for the shared use and multi-generational preservation of an heirloom property on an island off the New England coast. The property, acquired at a modest price many years ago, was (at the time the planning was undertaken) valued by arms-length appraisal at more than $30 million. Through a bargain sale of development rights to a conservation organization, the family depressed the value of the property substantially. Placing the encumbered property in a partnership then permitted discounted gifts of partnership interests to future generations, subject to rules and regulations that promote family harmony and protect the family interests against the claims of creditors, including those arising in the event of divorce or bankruptcy of a family member. The proceeds of the bargain sale of development rights also funded insurance on the lives of the siblings, to defray estate tax costs on the passing of the first generation.
  • Worked with a couple holding substantial financial and multi-state real estate interests to develop an equitable plan for their respective adult children of prior marriages, including provisions for an emotionally handicapped child and for a spendthrift child. Incorporated in this plan are elements to minimize estate and generation-skipping taxes, as well as asset-protection components, rights of first refusal allowing certain children a priority in certain properties, mechanisms to permit discounted gifting of appreciating assets and mechanisms to permit the surviving spouse to adjust distributions after the death of the first spouse, while simultaneously preventing the surviving spouse from improperly favoring his or her children.
  • Assisted the owners of a regional prepared foods business (serving states from Pennsylvania to Maine) to transfer substantial equity in their company (with control retained until the parents ultimately chose to relinquish it) to their children who had followed in the family business. The plan also, simultaneously, accomplished distributions of portfolio assets to the founders' other children (who were not active in the family business) in a fashion that all children accept as "equitable" despite the risk that the family business interests passing to some children may ultimately have substantially greater or lesser value than the marketable assets passing to the other children. The plan also includes trust mechanisms that have funded the education of 7 grandchildren, partnerships that have significantly discounted the value of multiple commercial properties and estate tax funding vehicles that will protect the full value of the estate that this family has labored to build from a single storefront in a modest community to a multi-million dollar enterprise.