University of Illinois

B.S., Accountancy, 1974
  • high honors

University of Illinois

J.D., 1977

Bar Admission


Les Raatz



Les Raatz is a member of the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC in Phoenix. He practices primarily in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration, divorce tax and asset planning, and entity structuring, and taxation. Mr. Raatz has significant experience representing many hundreds of business clients and their families in connection with estate and tax planning. He is a national author and speaker at numerous seminars on areas of income, estate and gift taxation, probate and trust issues, and selection of business entities. He is a licensed attorney in Arizona. After graduation from law school, he practiced as a Certified Public Accountant with KPMG Peat Marwick, CPAs.

Mr. Raatz is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). He is listed in Best Lawyers in America in fields of Tax Law and is 2016 Lawyer of the Year – Phoenix in the area of Trusts and Estates; and listed in Southwest Superlawyers in the fields of Tax, Estate Planning & Probate, Estate & Trust Litigation. He is certified as a Tax Specialist by the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of Arizona. He was President of the Central Arizona Estate Planning Council, Chair of the Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona, Chair of its Arizona Trust Code Comment Committee, and Chair of the Tax Advisory Commission for the Board of Legal Specialization, and a member of the Probate Rules Committee of the Arizona Supreme Court. His recent articles are “DIVORCE, SLATS AND THE GRANTOR TRUST SECTION 677 GHOST,” Trust and Estates magazine, August 2015; “‘DELAWARE TAX TRAP’ OPENS DOOR TO HIGHER BASIS FOR TRUST ASSETS,” Estate Planning magazine, Feb. 2014 (41 ETPL 3); and “STRUCTURING BUSINESS OWNERSHIP, OPERATION AND SALE TO MITIGATE THE 3.8% OBAMACARE TAX, SECA TAX AND FICA TAX,” Practical Tax Strategies magazine(June 2014), Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters as Publisher. He also authored “The Arizona Trust Code,” Arizona Attorney magazine, Jan. 2009 (45–Jan Ariz.Att’y 20), cited favorably in In re the Estate of King, 228 Ariz. 565; 269 P.3d 1189; 627 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 6 (Ariz. App., 2012).

Professional Involvement

  • Fellow, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC); ACTEC Task Force on Trust Material Participation; Estate and Gift
    Committee: Asset Protection Committee
  • Former President, Central Arizona Estate Planning Council
  • Former Chair, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona, Arizona Trust Code Comment Committee, and Tax Advisory Commission for the Board of Legal Specialization
  • Member, Taxation Section of the American Bar Association
  • Member, Taxation and Probate and Real Property Sections of the State Bar of Arizona
  • Former Member, Probate Rules Committee of the Arizona Supreme Court  

Recent and Upcoming Publications and Presentations

  • “Planning And Drafting Trust Provisions For Retirement Benefits,” State Bar of Arizona - Advanced Estate Planning: Complexities Facing Planners in the Current Estate Tax Environment, Phoenix, November 12, 2015
  • “Joint Representation of Spouses in Estate Planning,” American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Arizona Divorce Conference: Advanced Financial Topics, Phoenix, October 22, 2015
  • "Divorce, Slats, and the Grantor Trust Section 677 Ghost," Trust and Estates magazine, August 2015
    • Divorce is stressful enough without gratuitous tax issues, especially income tax.  Imagine finally getting the divorce and then being told that you are going to pay tax on the income or capital gain upon sale of assets that are in trust for the benefit of your ex-spouse – and there is little, if anything you can do about it.  That is the perception many have when a spouse creates and funds an irrevocable trust for the other back when they were lovey dovey, and thereafter part ways.  But it is not that bleak.
    • "Trusts as IRA Beneficiaries," State Bar of Arizona - CLE by the SEA, San Diego, July 20, 2015
      • Large Individual Retirement Accounts are more and more commonplace.  IRAs now constitute a significant portion, and in many cases the largest part, of the wealth of the client.  Designation of trusts as IRA and qualified plan interest beneficiaries offers outstanding benefits, such as greater asset protection and control of disposition, but is a dangerous endeavor for anyone other than the relative few who understand the rules.  There are two types of trusts that can qualify to permit IRAs and plan to be paid out over the actuarial lifetimes of the beneficiaries.  Mr. Raatz’s presentation discusses the choices and means to achieve them.
    • "Income Tax Planning for New and Used Trusts," State Bar of Arizona Convention, Phoenix, June 25, 2015
      • Income tax management for trusts is more important as the trust income tax rates have climbed substantially since 2012.   New trusts should have built in agility to shift and reduce aggregate Income Tax and the Net Investment Income Tax.  Recent changes to state trust laws create multiple ways to fix and repair old and backward trusts.
    • "Delaware Tax Trap and How to Spring It," State Bar of Texas - 39th Annual Advanced Estate Planning and Probate Course, Dallas, June 11, 2015
    • "Tax Planning for Estate Planning Clients," Arizona Community Foundation, Phoenix, May 28, 2015
    • "Derivation, Meaning and Application of Certain States' Constitutional Provisions Regarding Perpetuities," ACTEC Annual Meeting, Marco Island FL, March 8, 2015
    • "Structuring Business Ownership, Operation, and Sale to Mitigate the 3.8% Taxes," Practical Tax Strategies, June 2014
      • Avoiding the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (the "Obamacare Tax" or the "NIIT") provides little benefit if the consequence is to replace it with effectively a 3.8% self-employment tax or social security tax. The article discusses the NIIT, as well as techniques to avoid it as well as the other 3.8% Taxes when possible.
    • "Unique Estate Planning in Arizona to Reduce Income Tax and Simplify Structures," State Bar of Arizona Convention, Tucson, June 13, 2014
    • "Delaware Tax Trap Opens Door to Higher Basis for Trust Assets," Estate Planning, February 2014
      • The Delaware Tax Trap provides a method to step up basis in assets held in an irrevocable trusts that were not originally drafted to permit that benefit (bypass trust and multigenerational trust are candidates) through exercise of a power of appointment that causes the assets to be included in the estate of the powerholder. Alternatively, the Trap may permit one to elect to be treated as making a gift in order to allocate GST Exemption and avoid the GST Tax. The method requires understanding of the applicable state's rule against perpetuities. It is a new opportunity available due to the permanent increase in the estate and gift tax exemption and made more important because of much higher income tax rates.
    • “The Evolution of Planning Needs for Business Owners and High Net Worth Families Post ATRA," New York Life 2013 Advisor Symposium, New York City, October 22, 2013. 
    • Portability – Inheriting the Spouse’s Estate Tax Exemption
    • Creditor Protection Planning Techniques
    • “Selecting Decanting, Nonjudicial Settlement Agreements and Other Trust Modification Techniques,” Valley Estate Planners, Phoenix, September 19, 2013.
    • “Arizona Trust Code: Notice and Reporting Requirements, Creditor Protection Planning Techniques, Other Planning Opportunities under the Arizona Trust Code, Analysis and Planning for Use of the Trust Protector, Springing the Delaware Tax Trap in Arizona: Stepping Up Basis in Irrevocable Trust Assets,” State Bar of Arizona “CLE by the SEA,” San Diego, July 18, 2013.
    • “The Arizona Trust Code,” Arizona Attorney Magazine, Jan. 2009 (45–Jan Ariz.Att’y 20), cited favorably in In re the Estate of King, 228 Ariz. 565; 269 P.3d 1189 (Court of Appeals, Division 1, Feb. 7, 2012).