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Estate Planning Attorney

Chris is a partner and the chair of Varnum's Estate Planning Practice Team. Although Chris regularly advises clients regarding complicated tax situations, he recognizes that advising clients regarding estate planning and wealth succession requires an intimate understanding of the client's hopes, desires and concerns in order to achieve the client's goals. As such, he works intimately with clients and their advisors to create estate plans that enable families to plan for the immediate concerns of today, as well as for future generations.

Chris prepares sophisticated estate plans, focusing on probate avoidance, estate tax planning and business succession planning. In addition, Chris regularly assists families with cottage succession planning and navigating both the emotional, interpersonal and legal complexities of maintaining a family cottage. Chris also maintains a significant focus on post-death planning, and estate and trust administration.

For more information, please contact Chris Caldwell at 616/336-6951 or



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.


Honors & Recognitions

Best Lawyers in America® since 2013

Grand Rapids Magazine's Top Lawyers, Trusts and Estates, 2019

Leading Lawyers, Trust, Will & Estate Planning Law

Professional Affiliations

Grand Rapids Bar Association

Michigan Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE)

State Bar of Michigan: Probate and Estate Planning Section, Council member; Charitable and Exempt Organizations Committee, chair; Tax Committee

West Michigan Estate Planning Council, past president and Board member

West Michigan Planned Giving Group, past Board member

Community Involvement

Fountain Street Church Foundation, past chair and Board member

Home Repair Services, past chair and Board member

Porter Hills Planned Giving Committee, past committee member

Widowed Persons Service, past Board member

News & Publications


ICLE, Planning Techniques for the Taxable Estate, "Overview of the Estate and Gift Tax," December 5, 2019

Varnum's Annual Institute for Tax Practitioners, Grand Rapids, 2017, 2018, 2019

ICLE, Fundamentals of Estate Administration, "Information Gathering and Commencement of Proceedings," October 9, 2018

MICPA, West Michigan Tax Symposium, "Laying a Strong Basis for Your Estate Planning," November 29, 2017

ICLE, Planning Techniques for the Taxable Estate, "Overview of the Estate and Gift Tax," December 1, 2016



University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
J.D., magna cum laude, 2002

Hope College
Holland, Michigan
B.A., cum laude, History, 1998

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan

Court Admissions

  • All Michigan state courts
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