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Margaret Van Houten


Margaret is a senior shareholder of the Davis Brown Law Firm and former chair of the Business Division. She focuses on estate and tax planning for larger estates, complex trust and estate administration matters, charitable organizations and retirement planning. 



Margaret assists individuals, including business owners, farmers, executives, and professionals with high net worth to transmit their wealth to their intended beneficiaries with the least amount of tax and administrative expense. She advises about many techniques to assure the best outcome for the clients and their families. These techniques and tools include:

  • Revocable living trusts. Margaret advises many of her clients to consider a revocable trust as their primary estate planning vehicle. A properly implemented revocable trust not only avoids probate, but is an efficient management structure in case of incapacity.
  • Family-owned entities. Margaret has assisted many clients to successfully transition business and investment ownership and management to the next generation with significant tax savings.
  • Trusts for the long-term management and protection of family-owned assets, including generation skipping transfers.
  • Life insurance planning including life insurance trusts, beneficiary designations, and ownership by third party entities.
  • Sophisticated wealth transfer techniques, such as Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, Installment Sales to Defective Grantor Trusts, Charitable Trusts and Foundations.
  • Retirement planning. Margaret has significant experience planning for individuals with large retirement plans including using trusts as a beneficiary of such plans.
  • Family diversity. Margaret serves clients in a variety of family situations.  She has a long practice of representing LGBT individuals, and is proud to now be able to offer those couples who marry the same advantages available to all married couples.  Margaret also has a significant amount of experience with blended families, single parents, and those with adoptive and foster children.  As with all her clients, Margaret assists these families to achieve all their estate planning goals, recognizing the unique challenges each of them face.
  • Premarital agreements. Margaret was instrumental in the passage of the Iowa Premarital Agreement Act and has helped many individuals negotiate and implement creative agreements with prospective spouses.