Course Descriptions: LL.M. in Estate Planning

Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning

Practical Instruction in Tax and Non-Tax Planning

The following course descriptions outline a typical year's curriculum in the Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning. Flexible study paths include Full-Time, Part-Time, and Joint J.D./LL.M. options.


The graduate program begins with a traditional 14-week fall semester of coursework covering core conceptual topics that provide the foundation for the specialized planning courses offered in the spring semester. The fall semester core courses are similar to those found in traditional graduate tax programs and include partnership tax, corporate tax, individual income tax, wealth transfer tax, and the income taxation of trusts and estates. Students also enroll in a course introducing the estate planning and probate process.

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  • Corporate Tax (2 credits)

    This course is designed to teach the fundamental principles of corporate taxation. The course will examine the tax aspects of incorporating and liquidating a corporation; the taxation of corporate distributions, redemptions, mergers, and acquisitions and other corporate transactions.

  • Federal Wealth Transfer Tax (3 credits)

    An examination of federal estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes; property included in the gross estate, including prior transfers with retained powers and interests, property subject to powers of appointment, life insurance, annuities, and jointly owned property; valuation; expenses; marital deduction; and the definition of taxable gifts, including transfers in revocable and irrevocable trusts, and gifts to minors. This course provides the foundation for the advanced level courses on the wealth transfer tax system offered in the spring.

  • Income Tax for Estate Planners (2 credits)

    This course is designed to provide an introduction to both basic and advanced income tax principles that are the foundational building blocks for the other courses offered in the estate-planning program. It is designed to provide an overall picture of how these principles relate to each other, so that the student can better understand the objectives of the planning techniques covered in the specialized courses offered later in the program. The topics covered include the income tax treatment of liabilities, annuities, life insurance, gifts and bequests; the charitable deduction; the time value of money concept and the OID rules; assignment of income; restricted stock and stock options; depreciation recapture; installment sales; like-kind exchanges; and the income tax treatment of deferred compensation.

  • Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates (3 credits)

    A study of the income taxation of estates, trusts, and their beneficiaries; distributable net income; distribution deductions for simple trusts, complex trusts and estates; distributions in kind; the planning of funding marital trusts; postmortem estate planning; taxation of trusts for minors; charitable and foreign trusts; assignment of income; income in respect of a decedent; the grantor trust rules; and income tax basis problems.

  • Introduction to the Probate Process (2 credits)

    This course introduces students to the probate administration process by examining the Uniform Probate Code and the pragmatic aspects of probate proceedings as well as the attorney's role as counselor in this context.

  • Partnership Tax (3 credits)

    This course will cover the federal income tax treatment of partners and partnerships (including the taxation of limited liability companies and other entities treated as partnerships for income tax purposes). Topics to be covered include:

    (i) what is a partnership?
    (ii) the entity theory versus the aggregate theory of partnership taxation;
    (iii) capitalization of a partnership, including contributions of appreciated or depreciated property;
    (iv) taxation of ongoing partnership operations;
    (v) partnership distributions;
    (vi) partnership allocations and substantial economic effect;
    (vii) inside and outside basis determinations and the treatment of liabilities under section 752;
    (viii) partnership terminations;
    (xii) section 754 and other special basis elections.

    The course will also cover the taxation of S corporations, focusing primarily on the organization, operation, and termination of S corporations, while contrasting them with other forms of business entities.

Jason M. Grimes"The Graduate Program in Estate Planning offered at the University of Miami School of Law is unparalleled. Through this program I gained invaluable insights into sophisticated estate planning techniques which have allowed me to hit the ground running in my practice as well as giving me the confidence to work along side some of the best and brightest in the field."
Jason M. Grimes - LL.M. '06
Counsel, The IMCS Group, St. Petersburg, FL


Unique 1-Week Modular, Course Format: The spring semester consists of a series of one-week, one credit modular courses on advanced level tax and estate planning topics that integrate or build on the fall’s core courses including coverage of important non-tax topics such as asset protection, elder law, fiduciary administration, ethics, and investment planning. The modular format allows students to become fully immersed in the different advanced level planning topics covered each week. This specialized training enables law graduates and attorneys to rapidly acquire a high level of technical expertise.

Capstone Project: The spring curriculum also includes a semester-long drafting course that culminates in the preparation of an estate plan under the supervision and guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Networking: Students are also invited to attend the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, the nation's largest educational conference for estate planning professionals held every January. Here students gain professional development and exposure to estate planning professionals, including attorneys, accountants, trust officers, insurance advisors, and wealth management professionals.

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  • Asset Protection Planning (1 credit)

    This course will examine the techniques and legal strategies utilized to obtain maximum wealth protection, including exemption planning, limited liability entities, domestic trusts, self-settled trusts and offshore trusts. Discussions will include income, estate and gift tax consequences of utilizing such strategies and an analysis of fraudulent transfer principles, ethical considerations, and case law developments.

  • Chapter 14 (1 credit)

    This course will examine in-depth the provisions of IRC Chapter 14, the special rules for valuing property for transfer tax purposes. The course will examine the operation of the rules under each of the four sections of the chapter and the impact of each of the rules on the valuation of transfers of property. It will cover the operation of each section and planning alternatives for transfers of interests in business organizations and transfers in trust.

  • Charitable Gifts and Foundations (1 credit)

    An examination of the income and transfer tax consequences of gifts to charities; uses of public charities and private foundations in the estate planning process; split interest gifts to charities; and factors to consider in drafting charitable gifts and bequests.

  • Dispositions of the Family Business (1 credit)

    This course examines the use of intra-family deferred payment sales, such as installment sales, private annuities and SCINs in disposing of the closely-held business and investment assets such as real estate and marketable securities, either to the next generation or as exit strategies for cash. An empirical analysis, using financial projection software, of intra-family deferred payment sales, GRATs, charitable lead trusts, and preferred family limited partnerships is used to determine the most appropriate technique for a particular individual. The income tax impact and income tax planning techniques are an integral part of this course.

  • Drafting for Estate Planners (1 credit)

    This course focuses on the skills required for a successful drafting practice (both document drafting and practice management), including ascertaining a client's dispositive intentions through skilled interview techniques, diagnosis of tax and non-tax issues by the application of theoretical knowledge to the client's specific facts, further consultation with the client to refine the dispositive intentions as necessary to take into account the lawyer's recommendations, and communication through complex documents without distorting the client's intentions. The course assumes a general familiarity with the income, gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes.

  • Elder Law (1 credit)

    This course examines the legal and financial problems affecting aging or incapacitated clients and a study of advanced planning techniques for asset protection and management systems for clients who become unable to make decisions or manage their affairs, including health care decisions; housing options; review of the use of trusts; durable powers of attorney; advance directives for health care; financing long term care; Medicare; Medicaid; guardianship issues; the special ethical issues of working with older clients; the income, gift and estate tax issues involved in "lifetime planning"; and the use of health insurance and long term care insurance.

  • Ethical and Practical Aspects of Estate Planning (1 credit)

    This course focuses on the ethical and practical problems that a lawyer may encounter in various estate planning contexts. Special consideration is given to interaction with clients, including issues of representing multiple clients, fiduciaries, and disabled persons. Readings and problems also raise issues that involve questions of competence, conflicts of interest, fees, and confidentiality.

  • Fiduciary Administration (1 credit)

    This course considers selected problems in the administration of trusts and estates; appointment and qualification of fiduciaries; ancillary administration; fiduciary powers and duties, including investment duties and powers, operation of decedent's business, delegation and splitting of duties, and discretionary distribution problems; the effect of exercising powers of appointment; apportionment of taxes among the estate, trust, other entities and beneficiaries; and fiduciary accounting, including allocation of receipts and expenses. The course will also cover the application of principles set forth in recent uniform acts, including the Prudent Investor Act, the Principle and Income Act, and the Uniform Trust Code.

  • Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (1 credit)

    This course provides an in-depth examination of the generation-skipping transfer tax, particularly including the effective date provisions, utilization of available exemptions and exclusions, and the manner of computing the tax based on the nature of the transfer.

  • Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning

    In January, students are invited to attend the week-long Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, the nation's leading continuing education program for estate planning professionals.

  • Insurance Planning (1 credit)

    This course analyzes the taxation of and planning for life insurance in an estate planning context, including a description of various life insurance products, how to read and understand life insurance policy illustrations, the statutory definitions of life insurance in an estate planning context and modified endowment contracts, the income tax and transfer tax consequences of the use of life insurance in estate planning, the planning and drafting of irrevocable insurance trusts (including an analysis of a sample form irrevocable insurance trust and related drafter's notes), and the use of more sophisticated techniques involving life insurance, such as split-dollar and premium financing techniques.

  • International Estate Planning (1 credit)

    This course examines the income, gift and estate tax issues facing non-resident, non-citizen individuals investing in, or moving to, the United States, and of United States persons investing or working abroad, including residence, domicile, and situs issues; expatriation as a factor in estate planning; the income taxation of foreign trusts and their beneficiaries, including tax rules on the residence of trusts; grantor trust rules applying to foreign and United States grantors; a comparison of trusts to other comparable foreign entities, such as stiftungs and anstalts; the problems of the multi-country estate; ethical issues involved in international money transfers and the current anti-terrorist initiatives of the United States and the Financial Action Task Force Against Money Laundering; an analysis of United States estate tax treaties and the new income tax exchange of information treaties with tax havens; and related issues. As time permits, non-tax issues such as forced heirs and community property are also reviewed.

  • Investment Planning (1 credit)

    This course provides an overview of wealth management and investment planning. Topics include the different approaches to asset management, asset allocation and portfolio construction, manager selection and due diligence, alternative investments, and single stock risk management. The material is presented through a combination of lectures and case studies.

  • Marital Deduction Planning (1 credit)

    This course focuses on the uses and importance of the marital deduction; when and to what extent to use the deduction, including estate equalization, use of disclaimers, and partial QTIP elections; the use of formula provisions and the various vehicles available for qualification; analysis of allowable funding options and their advantages or disadvantages; the effects of forced heirs, administration expenses and taxes; and selected marital deduction clauses.

  • Planning for Distributions from Qualified Plans, IRAs and Non-Qualified Plans (1 credit)

    This course focuses on planning for distributions during the life and at the death of the owner of the benefits. Consideration is given to the types of retirement and deferred compensation plans available and to the rules relating to minimum required distributions, choosing a designated beneficiary, spousal consents and the taxation of benefits.

  • Tax Procedure (1 credit)

    This course focuses on the preparation and planning of gift, estate, and fiduciary income tax returns; the administrative process involved in an audit, including settlement procedures and administrative remedies; interest and penalties; the tax collection process; ethical considerations relating to estate tax matters; and the most current issues and how they are addressed at the audit level.

  • Valuation (1 credit)

    This course examines the significance of "value" and "fair market value" for federal tax purposes and the legal authorities describing valuation methodologies applied for such purposes. Determination of the fair market value of tangible personal property, real property, and business interests (including FLPs) for federal transfer tax purposes is examined in depth.