St. Louis' Larry Katzenstein reflects on the changes in estate planning and charitable giving

Katz Q&A picLOW.jpgIn the 2011 issue of Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers (available online, digitally, via app and in print) we interview Larry Katzenstein, a partner at Thompson Coburn in St. Louis, who concentrates on estate planning and charitable giving. He became fascinated with tax law at Harvard Law School and has stuck with it ever since. In this unpublished excerpt from our chat, he explains how the practice has changed over the decades:

How has the practice changed since the early '70s?
The tax law is much more complicated. When I started practicing, we didn't have Chapter 14. Chapter 14 is the portion of the Internal Revenue Code that deals with certain transfers in trusts-you can't do it anymore without gift-tax consequences. It really tightened the rules on estate planning techniques we used to use. Chapter 13 is generation-skipping, and we didn't have generation-skipping when I started. And the private foundation rules have gotten more complicated. Instead of transfers in trust, say deals with certain valuation techniques.

How have your charity clients evolved over time?
When I started practicing in 1972 very few charities had planned-giving programs. In St. Louis, for example, we had a planned-giving council. I was one of the first members, and there were about four of us sitting around a table. Now we fill a room with 150 people at a lunch meeting. Every small charity essentially does planned-giving now.

I think 25, 30 years ago, you rarely heard about gift annuities-it's called a charitable gift annuity-and now so many charities issue them. Donor-advised funds were not much of a factor 30 years ago, now they're becoming very common. There's the Fidelity Fund, the Vanguard Fund.

Why the evolution?
I just think, as I said before, everything's gotten more complicated. People think of new ways of doing things. The tax law gets more complicated because clever lawyers think of ways to abuse the system so Congress has to crackdown and tighten the loopholes.

You've been quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal for your expertise. Any quick advice you can drop on us?
Giving to charity during the lifetime is better than doing it by bequest, because you get an income tax deduction. Plus you get it out of your estate.