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Patton Boggs partner James McNair is a leading proponent of using the family incentive trust as an estate planning technique. It provides a way for the client to transfer wealth to family members if they fit certain criteria, such as graduating from college or having a job. This way, the trust is used to encourage responsible behavior in family members. Typically, his clients are self-made people, McNair, 48, says. “The last thing they want is to create a legacy where people get up in the morning and cash checks and don’t take risks . . . and don’t develop themselves as an individual.” McNair has been a tax lawyer in estates and trusts for 24 years. Born in Honduras, where his father was an engineer for the United Nations, McNair subsequently moved with his family to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Italy, and Canada. He moved to New Orleans just in time for high school. After law school at Georgetown University, he practiced for a few years at Sonnenreich & Roccograndi, whose sole client was billionaire medical researcher and art collector Arthur Sackler and his businesses. McNair then joined the tax department of Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress in the District, where he worked for 16 years. He spent three years at litigation firm Zuckerman Spaeder in an attempt to start an estate planning practice there. He left Zuckerman for Patton Boggs in 2000, where he leads the seven-lawyer wealth preservation practice. Most of the firm’s wealth preservation group’s revenues come from estate and trust clients who have net worths of more than $100 million, McNair says. A majority of his clients are real estate developers, construction company owners, and owners of car dealerships and other family businesses. He advises his wealthy clients on strategies to minimize their tax liabilities, helps them with defining their “charitable vision,” and guides them through the process of transferring their assets to the next generation. McNair says some clients will procrastinate on these decisions, so it is his role to get them to act before it is too late. “The idea of being dead isn’t something that anybody likes,” he says. Barry Glassman, a financial planner in McLean, Va., says McNair and his team at Patton Boggs use their resources and innovative techniques to achieve clients’ goals. “I like the way Jim works, in the sense that he works so closely with families and their wealth,” says Glassman, who has clients in common with McNair. “He becomes an important and integral part of the family.” (Glassman is a former contributor to Legal Times.) McNair has worked in multiple capacities for real estate developer Clayton Foulger and his family business, the Foulger-Pratt Cos. Foulger-Pratt owns a number of businesses, including a construction company. The business has been involved in the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring, Md. McNair has advised Foulger and his family members on estate planning strategies. But he also works for the business, providing tax advice and tax planning for the companies on forming new partnerships and other projects. “He’s very creative,” Foulger says, “and is able to put all the various parts and pieces together.” McNair says that working to satisfy all the wishes of multiple family members in preparing estate plans is challenging. In these situations, he prepares and outlines the overall plan for the assets and then obtains all the family members’ approval. To maintain his sophisticated estate planning practice, McNair, a past leader of the D.C. Bar Estate Planning Committee and the D.C. Estate Planning Council, an organization for attorneys, insurance agents, and accountants in the estate planning business, finds that he must also be familiar with other areas including real estate and corporate transactions, necessary to guide his clients’ multimillion-dollar businesses.

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