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Christopher J. Caldwell Partner

Grand Rapids
V-Card, Resume
Kimberly Baker, 616/336-6000

Estate Planning Experience

Chris is a partner and leads Varnum's Estate Planning team. Chris is acutely aware that advising clients on estate planning and wealth succession requires an intimate understanding of the client's goals,hopes, desires, and concerns in order to accurately prepare an appropriate plan. As such, he works intimately with clients and their advisors to create estate plans that enable families to plan for today as well as for future generations. Chris regularly prepares sophisticated estate plans, emphasizing probate avoidance, estate tax planning, and business succession planning. In addition, Chris regularly assists families with cottage succession planning. Chris's practice also includes a significant focus on post-death planning and estate and trust administration.

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of Michigan: Probate and Estate Planning Section, Membership Committee
  • Involved with Michigan's Institute for Continuing Legal Education, serving as a speaker, moderator, and as a co-author of a chapter in the ICLE book "Michigan Revocable Grantor Trusts"
  • Published written works in the University of Pittsburgh Law Review, the Michigan Bar Journal, and Michigan Lawyers Weekly
  • Member of both the State Bar of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Bar Association

Chris regularly makes presentations regarding estate planning, estate and trust administration, tax planning and cottage law. He has presented to professional groups such as the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants and the Michigan Bankers' Association.

Community Involvement

  • West Michigan Estate Planning Council, Board Vice President
  • West Michigan Planned Giving Group, Board Member
  • Home Repair Services, Board Member
  • Fountain Street Church Foundation, Board Member


  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    J.D., magna cum laude, 2002
  • Hope College
    Holland, Michigan
    B.A., cum laude, History, 1998


  • Best Lawyers in America® since 2013

Representative Matters

Advising multiple second-generation members of a significant farming operation on estate planning, focusing on estate tax minimization and business succession planning. Begin implementation of structure to involve next generation members in business operations.


Working with the majority owner of a large food-service operation to take advantage of tax minimization strategies while also simplifying a complex structure for maximum efficiency and flexibility for future planning.


Representation of an individual trustee regarding the settlement of a complex estate following the death of both parents; assisting in probate litigation regarding validity and interpretation of estate plan documents.


With several generations of multiple families involved in a variety of businesses, worked to establish consistent business succession plans within context of very individualized estate plans, and with an emphasis on transfer tax minimization, asset protection for future generations, and business operation efficiency.


Worked with a  couple owning eight-figure qualified retirement plans to prepare an estate plan with a goal to maximize benefits to individual beneficiaries and charities in the context of income tax, estate tax, and cash flow concerns.


Represented parents holding valuable Lake Michigan real estate to address property tax concerns (  ) while creating a cottage management structure for future generations.

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