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Home / people / Trusts & Estates honoree profile Martin O’Toole

Martin O’TooleMartin O’Toole

Partner, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP

Years in current role: 34

What has been your biggest success over the past year?

Positioning clients to deal with the potential changes occasioned by the “Build Back Better Act,” which, of course, was not passed.

What are your expectations for the rest of this year?

Since it appears that a slimmed-down version of the “Build Back Better Act” will not pass, clients will not have to worry about federal estate and gift tax changes. As inflation appears to be persistent, rather than transitory, I expect that more clients will consider the implications of higher inflation on their estate planning. Given that we are not likely to have any federal estate and gift tax changes in the near term, my sense is that clients will begin to focus on the expiration of the tax changes in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” as of Jan. 1, 2026.

What advice would you give someone starting a trusts and estates practice right now?

Do not go into the practice expecting that this is a quiet backwater; the practice demands constant learning. In the last seven or so years, wholly apart from the COVID-related changes such as remote witnessing of Wills (now not in effect) and remote notarizations (still in effect), we have had changes regarding digital assets, stored genetic material, eligibility standards for Medicaid for home care and rules governing required distributions from IRAs and qualified plans, to name a few. Anything that affects a family or a person eventually has a trusts and estates dimension, and thus the practitioner has to be ready to reflect the changes to families and individuals in planning.

If you could practice one area of law that you haven’t practiced in your career, what would it be and why?

I left law school thinking that I would be a corporate lawyer counseling principals of closely held businesses. While my practice involves that sort of work on a periodic basis, it is something I could envision doing full time. Why? The sense that your advice has a more immediate and significant impact.

What is one personal goal you have for the next year?

The last year has been exceptionally busy. I would like a bit more time out of the office.

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