Lawyer Limelight: Steve Oshins

Steve Oshins’ enthusiasm for estate planning is infectious. With a service-oriented manner and a client base of billionaires and other high-net-worth individuals, Oshins brings a personal approach to the nuances of tax law and asset protection. As managing partner of Oshins & Associates, he balances his practice with this leadership role – that is, when he’s not drafting client-friendly legislation or speaking at major industry conferences.

Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the type of work being done at your firm?

Steve Oshins: We have a national estate planning practice with roughly 80% to 90% of our clients outside of our home state of Nevada. We have at least twenty billionaire clients and well over five hundred clients with net worths in excess of $100 million. Therefore, a lot of my work is in the estate tax area since estate taxes are so punitive. But as the years have gone by and the estate tax exemption has increased, a substantial amount of our client work is in the hottest two areas of estate planning – asset protection and state income tax savings.

The great thing about both asset protection planning and state income tax planning is that there is such a large demand for this work, yet almost nobody in the estate planning industry actually does this work. Therefore, because of simple supply and demand, these have become the majority of our practice, even more so than estate tax planning.

LD: What keeps you excited about this work?

SO: I love working with high-net-worth clients because the greater the net worth, the more I can help them and their families. Simply put, I enjoy helping people. And since no two clients are exactly the same, I look forward to dealing with different and new fact patterns every day. I love the challenge of trying to achieve perfection for my clients. It is very satisfying to hear about their families and to show them how we can help them, whether it is to save income taxes or estate taxes or to protect assets from creditors.

I also love the employees at Oshins & Associates. They're like my second family. I always tell people that most of the credit should be given to our other attorneys and staff. I have never felt more strongly than I do now that our current staff is the best and most capable than it has ever been. Our attorneys are as good as any law firm's attorneys in the entire country. I have enjoyed watching them grow into who they are today.

LD: Out of all the estate work you’ve done in your career, is there a particular case that stands out?

SO: Even though I have handled a large number of billionaires’ estate plans, the one that will always stick out to me was about 15 years ago when I was hired by a new client who had a net worth of about $45 million and who was dying. We originally were told that he had about two to three years to live, but he suddenly got ill while we were in the middle of drafting the various estate tax savings trusts. In fact, we were told that he had a week or two to live. So I modified the plan accordingly and we hurried the documents and emailed them to the family and just told them to sign everything and that I would explain it all later! I literally didn't even have time to tell them what we were doing! He died within about a week of executing the documents and we saved the family more than $11 million even after an audit and a very slight valuation adjustment. I will never outdo what was done for this family. It will always stand out for me as my greatest estate plan and most interesting situation.

LD: This type of work sounds like its own reward. That said, are there any professional accolades of which you’re particularly proud?

SO: The biggest achievement in my career was when I was inducted into the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils Estate Planning Hall of Fame in 2011. It's the highest honor in the estate planning industry. And I appreciated it for two main reasons:

First of all, my father and I are the only parent/child inductees in the Estate Planning Hall of Fame, so we're very proud of that fact.

Secondly, I didn't do well my first year of law school, which is probably why I have worked so hard since then. After my first year of law school, I questioned whether I was even cut out for the practice of law. But once I was able to use my first-year law school experience to motivate me and put a chip on my shoulder, it seemed like everything went right after that. When you've experienced near-failure like I did, you tend to appreciate successes that much more and you never take anything for granted. After doing so horribly my first year in law school, I ended up being the youngest to ever get inducted into the Estate Planning Hall of Fame, which to this day I still can hardly believe.

LD: How have the recent changes in estate tax laws impacted the work you do?

SO: The rise of the federal estate tax exemption has completely changed my practice. With the exemption as high as it is, our firm has shifted the majority of its focus onto asset protection and state income tax planning. I have been shifting a lot of my presentation topics at conferences and on webinars to meet the increased demand in these two areas.

LD: You clearly love what you do. But what do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?

SO: I spend a lot of time with my wife, Elena. We're inseparable. I nearly always take her with me when I give my presentations at out-of-state conferences. We always have fun no matter what we're doing, whether enjoying a meal out at a restaurant, watching movies, exercising or anything else that we do together. She's a big part of my success. She takes the unnecessary stresses off of my shoulders and lets me focus on what I do best.

LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the legal world?

SO: I enjoyed “The Firm.” It helped me realize how much better the quality of life is at a smaller law firm. We currently have five attorneys. I can't imagine what it would be like at a large firm where you only know a small amount of the other employees. “The Firm” is a great example of exactly what I wouldn't want to have to deal with every day. It makes me appreciate the quality of life that I have.

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