University of Pittsburgh School of Law
J.D., magna cum laude, 2002
B.A., cum laude, History, 1998
All Michigan state courts
Estate Planning Attorney
Chris is a partner on Varnum’s Estate Planning Practice Team. Chris regularly advises clients regarding complicated estate planning, succession, and tax planning, recognizing that such advice 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.
Advising multiple second-generation members of a significant farming operation on estate planning, focusing on estate tax minimization, business succession planning and philanthropic planning. Implementing 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, working 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.
Working 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.
Representing holding valuable Lake Michigan real estate to address property tax concerns while creating a cottage management structure for future generations.
Representing owners of an automotive supplier to implement various irrevocable trusts and transfers; Coordinating various irrevocable trusts and establishments of agreements among beneficiaries to reallocate ultimate disposition of various trust held assets.
Representing owner of business in medical support field regarding sale of nine-figure ownership interest to “dynasty” trust to maximize generalized wealth transfer for many generations while minimizing estate tax.
Honors and Recognitions
Best Lawyers in America®, Trusts and Estates, since 2013
Best Lawyers in America®, Lawyer of the Year, Trusts and Estates (Grand Rapids), 2023
Grand Rapids Magazine’s Top Lawyers, Trusts and Estates, since 2019
Leading Lawyers, Trust, Will & Estate Planning Law
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
West Michigan Estate Planning Council, past President and Board member
West Michigan Planned Giving Group, past Board member
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
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Foundation, Board of Directors
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