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BECAUSE I TREAT YOUR MATTER AS IF IT WERE MY OWN

WELCOME TO MILLERLAW

A Personalized Law Firm For Estate, Family and Business Matters

Christopher L. Miller, Esq. provides personal and individual legal services to attend to your needs. When you hire Christopher L. Miller as your attorney, you are hiring me to be by your side every step of the way.

Whether you require estate planning, probate, family court, or business legal representation, I promise to work diligently and use the latest technology to help you achieve your goals. Put my know-how to work for you today!

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AREAS OF PRACTICE
  • ESTATE PLANNING AND PROBATE

    You've worked hard to build your assets. Planning your estate now will allow you to protect those hard earned assets later during the estate transfer process. Christopher Miller can draft the simplest estate plan, set up more complex arrangements utilizing sophisticated trusts, and everything in between, depending on your needs. We also handle probate matters in many Probate Courts throughout the state of South Carolina. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Last Wills and Trusts
    • Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney
    • Tax Planning
    • Charitable Giving
    • Estate and Trust Administration
    • Contested Trusts and Estates
    • Fiduciary Accountings
    • Guardianships and Conservatorships
  • FAMILY LAW

    When things do not go well in personal relationships, life can become very difficult. I offer personalized attention to your matter. When you hire me for your family court issue, you can be sure that I will show up to argue your case, not an assistant. I take care to set forth your cause as efficiently as possible, and will provide candid advice as to the strengths and weaknesses of your case so you can smartly move your case forward. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Divorce and Separation
    • Child Custody and Visitation
    • Child Support
    • Asset Division
    • Prenuptial Agreements
    • Name Changes
  • BUSINESS LAW

    Christopher Miller is here to serve you - the entrepreneur, leader, visionary and dreamer. I myself own several start up businesses in various stages. I understand what it is like and I want to help your business achieve its goals. We can help you select the proper organization for your business, help you protect yourself with carefully drafted contracts and shareholder agreements, and can help you protect your intellectual property. Contact me today for a consultation.

    • Corporation and LLC Formation
    • Shareholder/Operating Agreements
    • Contract Drafting/Review
    • Trademark and Copyright
    • Real Estate Leasing/Sales
    • Opinion Letters
MILLERLAW ATTORNEY
Christopher L. Miller
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Hello. I am Christopher L. Miller. Thank you for visiting my website. One of my favorite things about my law practice is being able to meet new clients and work on legal strategies to help you to accomplish your goals. Please contact me today for a consultation.

Some other things about me: I live in Simpsonville with my wife Jaime, son Christopher, and daughter Sophie. When not practising law, I enjoy spending time with my family taking in the wonderful sights of the upstate, cheering on a Greenville Drive or Road Warriors game, rooting for my beloved New York Rangers, web design and programming, and playing ice hockey at the Greenville Pavillion.
  • GENERAL BACKGROUND

    Legal Experience
    I began my legal career in New York by attending Touro Law Center on a scholarship. During law school I made the Dean's List each semester, served as a teaching assistant in Criminal Law, served as a research assistant for one of my law professors, and finally graduated magna cum laude. After graduation I spent several years practising estate planning, estate probate, real estate, and family law for a law firm on the north shore of Nassau County, Long Island. In 2009 I relocated to Greenville, South Carolina with my family and started my own practice here in Greenville, which I ran for several years. In 2016, I joined my law practice with The Miller Law Firm, PA, at our current location. I have now been a member of the South Carolina Bar for seven years (New York for nearly ten yers), concentrating my practice in estate planning, probate, family law, and business law.

    Education
    Juris Doctorate (Touro Law Center)
    Master of Science in Experimental Pathology (New York Medical College)
    Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (Stony Brook University)

    Side Projects
    I love writing computer code and taught myself HTML, CSS, and Javascript during law school. After law school, I started learning some PHP and am now trying to pick up Python and Java (have to teach my son how to mod his Minecraft). One of my side projects can be found at Doxkit.com which is a website that helps South Carolina Probate attorneys to automatically generate court forms for use in the South Carolina Probate Courts.

  • Bar Admissions & Memberships

    Bar Admissions
    South Carolina
    New York
    United States Tax Court
    United States Patent and Trademark Office

    Memberships
    South Carolina Bar Association
    New York State Bar Association

    Committees
    South Carolina Bar Elder Law Committee
    South Carolina Bar Ethics Advisory Committee

  • AWARDS, ACCOLADES AND RECOGNITION

    CALI Awards For Academic Excellence
    Contracts I
    Business Organizations I
    Evidence
    Pretrial Litigation

    Honorary Societies
    The Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Golden Key International Honour Society

Here's My Latest Blog Post!

IRS Issues Private Letter Ruling Re: Retirement Account Beneficiaries


A part of estate planning that is sometimes overlooked is the naming of beneficiaries for retirement accounts. What may seem like a trivial exercise can have damaging impact if neglected. Be sure to name beneficiaries of your retirement accounts. And be sure to name contingent beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiary dies before you.

In Private Letter Ruling 201612001 (released March 18, 2016), the IRS was asked to provide an opinion on the following situation: Husband died owning an IRA account. His spouse survived him. The primary named beneficiary (not the spouse) died before Husband. There was no contingent beneficiary named. As a result the Husband's estate became the beneficiary of the retirement account. The Surviving Spouse then requested the IRS's opinion on whether she could treat the IRA account as her own, thus potentially delaying the payment of income taxes on the account. In this case, the IRS stated that because the Surviving Spouse was both the executor and the sole heir of the estate, she could treat the IRA account as her own.

You might be asking then what is the problem? The IRS said the Surviving Spouse can treat the account as her own and delay the payment of income taxes. Let's assume for a moment that it was Husband's intent for his Surviving Spouse to receive that account if his primary beneficiary died before him. The problem is that it is expensive to obtain a Private Letter Ruling from the IRS. There are IRS filing fees as well as attorney's fees that will be incurred. This is not a good use for estate funds, when it could have easily been avoided.

It also takes time to get the ruling. In this case, the request was made about 11 months before the decision was rendered. Perhaps it also took a few months to prepare the request, and another few months on top of that to even realize that a Private Letter Ruling would be necessary. Lastly, an IRS Private Letter Ruling is not a precedent for any other taxpayer. Another taxpayer could not rely on this decision if they are in the same situation.

Consider though if it was not Husband's intent for his Surviving Spouse to receive the IRA, then his intent was frustrated by not having named a contingent beneficiary. When you undertake estate planning, it is important to make sure there are no potential issues with your beneficiary designation forms, so get your attorney's input when naming your beneficiaries. We have the experience to know what can possibly go wrong.


Posted on April 01, 2016 at 4:02 pm by Christopher Miller

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FAQs
Estate Planning FAQs
  • Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?

    The reasons for needing a Last Will and Testament are as varied as the clients that walk through my door. Having a Last Will and Testament in place can lead to a much more orderly and calm estate administration process for your surviving relatives by appointing somebody that is clearly in charge of the process.

    Some clients want to protect their young children with trusts and guardianship designations in the event the unthinkable occurs. Sometimes parents are worried about providing for a disabled child. Other clients are concerned about their heir's debts and want to protect the estate assets to the fullest extent possible. There are concerns about estate taxes, as well as wishes to benefit favorite charities. The reasons for needing a Last Will significantly depend on your concerns and current interests.

  • Do I need anything else besides a Last Will and Testament?

    After a Last Will and Testament, you should strongly consider setting up a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney. A Last Will and Testament will take care of your assets after your lifetime. But these Powers of Attorney will help you to take care of your medical care and assets during your lifetime should you be unable to.

    The Health Care Power of Attorney appoints a family member to make medical decisions for you in the specific case where you are unable to make these decisions for yourself. The Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives an agent that you appoint the ability to take care of financial matters for you in case you are either mentally or physically unable to do so yourself.

  • Will my estate owe any taxes after my lifetime?

    An estate can be subject to multiple taxes. An estate may have to pay estate taxes as well as estate income taxes. If you are administering an estate, tax issues can be difficult to navigate.

    In short, in the year 2013 estates of less than $5,250,000.00 do not have to pay estate tax in South Carolina. If an estate owns assets located in other states, estate taxes could be due in the other states. Whether or not an estate income tax return must be filed depends whether or not the estate has earned $600.00 or more in a given tax year. Retirement accounts are subject to different rules, and traditional IRAs and 401ks will typically incur income taxes on the deferred income. The tax law is complex, do not try to navigate this yourself as mistakes can be costly and irreversible.

  • How much do you charge for estate planning?

    The answer to this question is that it depends on what you need. A simple estate plan with a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Durable Financial Power of Attorney typically costs a few hundred dollars. Adding Living Trusts or other trusts to the equation can add to this cost, sometimes significantly.

    Proper estate planning is a process, not a thing. There are many ancillary tasks that should be completed to ensure that your estate plan will work as desired. These include making sure your financial institutions will accept your Powers of Attorney, making sure your beneficiary designations are in place and are consistent with your intentions, transferring assets to trusts (an often overlooked step), and performing the ongoing formalities required by your estate plan.

Estate Probate FAQs
  • Why do I have to administer my relative's estate?

    The major reason is to be able to take control of the assets of the estate. Assets in the name of the Decedent typically cannot be accessed without some sort of an estate administration being undertaken in the Probate Court. Furthermore, good title to real estate owned by the Decedent can depend on an estate administration and the resulting deed of distribution that is issued by the Personal Representative of the estate.

    If you are unsure whether or not you actually need to probate a relative's estate, schedule a consultation with me and we will figure it out. In some cases probate is unnecessary, in others it is required, and in some cases where the estate is sufficiently small a small estate proceeding can be undertaken.

  • What is a small estate proceeding?

    A small estate proceeding allows anybody who paid the funeral bill or the heirs of the decedent to apply to the Probate Court for an Order allowing the person to collect certain assets belonging to the Decedent. After reimbursing the person who paid the funeral bill, the remaining assets are divided according to the Last Will of the decedent or the law of intestacy, whichever is applicable in the case.

    There are certain restrictions to this procedure. Thirty days must pass from the date of death before a small estate can be filed, and the value of the entire probate estate, minus liens and encumbrances, shall not exceed $25,000.00. The process is limited to personal property (bank accounts, investment accounts), real property cannot be transferred this way. If the decedent held any real property in his/her name without survivorship language in the deed, opening a full estate will be necessary to properly transfer the land.

  • What paperwork do I need to probate an estate?

    Here's the legal profession's most common answer: it depends. You will need to file an original death certificate, along with the Application for Appointment/Probate. Other forms may or may not be necessary depending on the circumstances. If the Decedent had a Last Will, the law requires the Last Will be filed with the applicable Probate Court within thirty days of the Decedent's death.

    Other forms that may be required to open the estate proceeding are Renunciations and Waivers from the estate's heirs, and an Appointment of Agent for Service in the case of an out of state Personal Representative. In the case of formal proceedings, you are required to file a Summons as well as Proof of Service on all the interested parties entitled to notice, who have not otherwise waived notice. In certain instances, a fiduciary bond may be required. It can be quite a bit confusing to figure out what paper work you need to begin the estate administration process.

    Luckily I love to practice in Probate Court so much that I developed software that helps South Carolina attorneys prepare paperwork for use in Probate Court. Contact me today for a consultation.

  • The Personal Representative of an estate is not giving me any information. What can I do?

    Sometimes the communication process between the Personal Representative, the attorney for the estate, and the estate beneficiaries breaks down. Many times this arises from a misunderstanding as to how information will flow from the attorney to the estate beneficiaries. Some Personal Representatives want the information to flow through them, whereas others want the attorney to take care of the communications. I always discuss with the Personal Representative in the beginning how communication with estate beneficiaries will take place.

    If you are an estate beneficiary and are not receiving any information, the easiest thing to do is go to the Probate Court and review the file. Anything done in the estate will be in the file. If this is not feasible, there are forms available that allow you to demand to receive all documents and notices that are required to be given by the Personal Representative. If you are unable to receive information you are entitled to, contact me for a consultation about what to do next.

Family Law FAQs
  • My husband/wife is not allowing me to see my children, what can I do to see them?

    This is an unfortunate and yet all too common situation where parents of a child cannot agree on custody and visitation rights. If there is currently no Family Court Order in place setting forth your visitation rights, your remedy is to petition the Family Court for an Order giving you the right to visit with your children. When you file your Petition, you can also file a Motion for Temporary Relief, where you can have the court set forth a visitation schedule temporarily pending the outcome of the case.

    If there is already an Order in place for visitation, then your spouse is in violation of the Order. The Order can be enforced via a Contempt action, which carries somewhat severe penalties including possible jail time and monetary fines. Do not tolerate not being permitted to visit with your children. If you are having an issue, consult with an attorney to explore your options.

  • I've been served with divorce papers. Now what?

    So you've been served with papers by your spouse seeking a divorce? First, make note of the day, date, time, and what you were doing when you were served. This sounds trifling, but could have an effect on the outcome of your case. Furthermore, the time for you to take some responsive action begins to run on the day you were served. Next, review the papers and determine what chance there is that you and your spouse will be able to resolve this with a voluntary agreement.

    Next, you should consult with an attorney to determine how to respond, which will likely include filing an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, and possibly making an appearance at a temporary hearing, if temporary relief is requested by your spouse. At this consultation, the lawyer will explain the divorce process, provide an overview of the services offered by the attorney, and how much the services will cost.

  • What are the grounds for divorce in South Carolina?

    If you are trying to obtain a no-fault divorce, the ground for divorce will be one year of continuous separation by the parties. The separation requires that the parties actually physically reside in separate residences throughout this year long period. At the final divorce hearing, a witness will be required to testify to their personal knowledge that the parties have resided separately for one year.

    The other grounds for divorce are the so-called fault grounds, and they are adultery, physical abuse, and habitual drunkeness and drug use. These grounds must be proven by the party asserting them. Proving any of these fault grounds can have a devastating impact on the case for the at-fault party, whereby alimony could be denied to an adulterer and child custody/visitation can be taken away from a physical abuser or habitual drug user. Asset division can also be impacted if these fault grounds are proven.

  • How do I change my custody/visitation and support orders?

    If there is already a Family Court Order for custody/visitation or child support in place, it is important that you abide by all the terms of the Order. While you might agree among yourself and your child's parent to change the Order, you should know that such an agreement will not bind the Family Court. Thus, if you wish to officially change a Family Court Order, you must petition the Family Court and request the change.

    When you file your petition for modification, the Family Court will review your request and hold a hearing. If the Court finds that there is a substantial change in circumstances that causes the prior Order to be unjust or impractical, a change can be made. When you make your request, you may also seek temporary relief, where you request that the court issue a temporary Order pending the outcome of the case. This can be useful for obtaining relief quickly.

Business Law FAQs
  • I am an entrepreneur looking to start up my own company. What business entity should I be looking into?

    Congratulations on starting a new business. Choosing the correct business entity requires some thought, and this decision should be revisited as your business grows and develops. One major consideration in choosing the form of business is limitation of personal liability. South Carolina law grants limitation of personal liability to corporations, LLCs, and partners in certain forms of partnership, such as LLPs. This limitation of personal liability does not exist with a sole proprietorship, or an ordinary partnership.

    Another major consideration is the tax structure of the entity. C corporations are subject to double taxation, where they are taxed at the corporate level and at the shareholder level. This is generally disadvantageous to small businesses. A different option is the S corporation, which is also a corporation but is considered a pass through entity (only taxed at the shareholder level). There are strict legal requirements for creating and maintaining an S corporation. Other examples of pass through entities include partnerships, LLC, and LLPs. For most small businesses, a pass through entity will suffice. However, if your business experiences spectacular growth and needs to begin raising large amounts of capital to keep growing, you will find that a C corporation is the best entity for your business.

  • What are the differences between C and S corporations?

    C corporations and S corporations are both corporations in the eyes of the state. However, an S corporation is a corporation that files an election with the Internal Revenue Service to be treated as an S corporation under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code (as opposed to Subchapter C like a C corporation).

    Status as an S corporation requires compliance with a number of often constricting rules, including the limitation on the number of shareholders it can have but, with some exceptions, complying corporations escape federal tax at the corporate level. (South Carolina also recognizes the S election.). The limitation on the number of shareholders (currently 100), is the reason why corporations become C corporations as they grow larger, the S election becomes unavailable to them.

  • What types of legal procedures should corporations maintain?

    Shareholders of corporations are entitled to the shield of personal liability that limits the shareholder's liability to his/her own investment. However, this liability shield will only remain intact if certain requirements are complied with. The shareholder must respect the fact that the corporation is a separate entity in order to maintain that liability shield.

    This requires that regular shareholder and board meetings be held for the corporation. This also requires that minutes be kept for these meetings. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the separate financial status of the corporation must be respected. Do not intermingle shareholder and corporation funds, as this can result in the personal liability shield of the entity being removed.

  • What is "piercing the corporate veil?"

    "Piercing the corporate veil" is the result of a shareholder acting in a way that does not respect the separate status of the business entity. The corporate formalities of shareholder and board meetings are not held, and the finances of the corporation and the shareholder are commingled. This can result in an outside person being permitted to "pierce the corporate veil" and hold a shareholder liable for greater than the amount of the shareholder's investment. When the corporate veil is pierced, the law views the corporation as essentially being the alter ego of the shareholder, and would not enforce the personal liability shield.

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Christopher L. Miller, Esq.

The Miller Law Firm, PA

18 Parkway Commons Way

Greer, SC 29650

USA

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Telephone: (864) 335-4891

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OFFICE HOURS (by appointment only)

Monday: 9am to 5:30pm

Tuesday: 9am to 5:30pm

Wednesday: 9am to 5:30pm

Thursday: 9am to 5:30pm

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