Cathleen C. Opel
Cathleen understands that planning for the future requires action in the present. With a talent for making estate planning concepts understandable and a commitment to achieving a client's objectives through a finalized estate plan, Cathleen provides counsel to individuals and families on all aspects of estate management, including - document preparation (wills, trusts - including special needs trusts, asset protection strategies, gifting, prenuptial agreements, powers of attorney and advance medical directives), estate and trust administration, family business succession planning, dispute avoidance and resolution, and fiduciary and probate litigation.
Bringing experience and perceptiveness to the process, Cathleen is highly effective in dealing with the complex, and sometimes competing, issues involved in estate planning - balancing the need of the client to preserve the family assets against the need of the client to preserve the family relationships. Cathleen's sensitivity to family dynamics at the estate planning phase, particularly in cases of second marriages and family-owned businesses, is an added benefit to a client who anticipates and wants to avoid a will challenge.
As a member of the Family Business Practice Group, Cathleen is experienced in family business succession planning and structuring estate plans to create parity between those family members who are in the family business with those who are not in the family business.
As part of her ongoing commitment to the local community, Cathleen serves as co-chair of the Senior Legal Services Committee, a joint program of the Bar Association of Baltimore City and Baltimore Bar Foundation, and was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award from the Baltimore Bar Association in recognition of her efforts. Cathleen also trained volunteer attorneys and personally participated in the 'Wills for Heroes' program that supports the area's first responder network.
A sought after speaker, Cathleen regularly presents on estate planning and probate topics, and provides leadership on the evolving requirements for estate planning in a population that is living longer and must now consider the implications of lengthy late-life capacity.
- Not wanting the legacy of a vacation home to become a legacy of conflict, Cathleen conducted family meetings and had open discussions at the estate planning phase to structure an estate plan that successfully transferred the family vacation home from one generation to the next to the mutual satisfaction of all at the client's subsequent death.
- Knowing that stability is critical to the survival of a family business, Cathleen administered and closed an estate valued at $10M+ consisting of numerous family-owned business entities in less than a year. Involved complex estate administration and estate and income tax issues attendant with Subchapter S Corporations and LLC interests and emerging testamentary trusts as new shareholders. Expeditious estate administration was the result of a successful coordination of family business lawyers, business accountant, and family member business owners.
- Utilizing the only silver lining that comes with knowing that death is imminent, Cathleen prepared an estate plan for a terminally ill client that achieved his goal to minimize taxes and pass the maximum to his children. Through gifting and retirement account conversions, Cathleen was able to reduce the client's assets just enough to avoid the Maryland Estate Tax, but not impoverish the client should his health improve. By using beneficiary designations and title as estate planning vehicles, avoided probate of the client's estate and allowed assets to pass promptly to client's children at his death. Pre-planning the client's funeral arrangements removed this decision-making burden from the children, who were greatly appreciative of their father's forethought.
- Recognizing the early signs of physical and mental decline in a long-time client with no close family members to assist him, Cathleen prepared a Living Trust for the client and served as the trustee to manage the client's financial matters, including the payment of his bills, overseeing his caregivers, and assisted with representing him before the IRS for back taxes owed.