Robert E. Kass | Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, P.L.L.C. |
(313) 965-9725 Pay Now
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Robert  E. Kass


Estate Planning and Probate
Business Counseling


LL.M. (Taxation), New York University Law School

J.D. (honors), University of Michigan Law School

Post-graduate studies, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland (recipient of Fulbright-Swiss University Fellowship)

B.A. (honors), Wayne State University


  • Fellow, American College of Trust & Estate Counsel (ACTEC).
  • Best Lawyers in America® (Trusts and Estates) since 2009.
  • Named “Lawyer of the Year” in 2022 in Detroit, “Trusts & Estates,” by Best Lawyers in America®
  • Michigan Super Lawyers
  • Martindale-Hubbell Rating:  AV Preeminent 5.

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Robert E. Kass
Tel: 313-596-9312
Fax: 313-983-3325
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Bob concentrates on estate planning, tax counseling, wealth preservation, and planned giving.  He is thorough and analytical, while giving great personal attention to his clients.

His practice includes estate planning, wealth preservation, and planned giving, for estates of all sizes. In addition to the traditional drafting of wills and trusts, he and his group specialize in sophisticated wealth preservation techniques, succession planning, probate and trust administration, post-mortem planning, as well as estate tax return preparation, gift and estate tax audits and appeals, and estate-related claims and litigation.

He is also heavily involved in charitable and planned giving techniques, to permit his clients to identify and meet their charitable objectives with maximum tax benefit.

Bob also serves as the Chairman of the Tax, Estate Planning & Probate Group.

After earning his law degree at the University of Michigan, Bob began his legal career as an associate with a U.S. law firm in Brussels, Belgium, serving a multinational corporate clientele. He later returned to the United States to pursue advanced studies in tax law at New York University, where he earned a Master's Degree in Taxation. He then joined Barris, Sott, Denn and Driker.


  • Ultra high-net-worth client’s estate plan, adopted many years ago, included three $10 million discretionary trusts for adult children, residue to charity.  Bob asked client to estimate what the children would realistically need during their lifetime, and determined that the trusts would be significantly overfunded.  This would result in significant estate tax cost with little benefit to the children.  Bob then suggested that the discretionary trusts be eliminated.  At the client’s death three charitable gift annuities would be funded, on a formula basis, to give the children an ample cash flow stream for life, more than enough to provide their needs.  At the client’s death the CGA’s resulted in an estate tax deduction in the client’s estate for the hypothetical amounts which would pass to charity at the death of the children.
  • Client had created a private foundation, created as a perpetual foundation, which was to be the residuary beneficiary of an extremely large estate.  Bob raised the possibility of converting the foundation to a spend-down, so that the there would be a greater likelihood that the client would know the people who would be running it after his death, and avoid mission shift such as has occurred with a number of prominent foundations.  The client ultimately agreed, and the foundation is now operating under a 20-year spend down provision.  This has had a material impact on foundation governance as well as distributions and benefits to the communities on which the foundation is focused.
  • Successfully implemented sophisticated wealth transfer techniques including self-canceling installment note (“SCIN”), initially removing over $5 million in value from client’s taxable estate.  Over time, the amount removed from the taxable estate has increased many times due to appreciation.
  • Effectively employed post-mortem planning techniques (disclaimers, Probate Court reformation of a Will), and obtained favorable IRS Private Letter Ruling, to reverse effects of poor planning by decedent's attorney, saving widow over $300,000 in estate taxes
  • Recommended and implemented reallocation of personal injury award between decedent's estate and family members, saving family members over $250,000 in estate taxes
  • Implemented charitable trust for client owning a large concentration of highly appreciated publicly traded stock, permitting him to diversify his holdings into mutual funds without triggering capital gains, significantly increase his lifetime income, and receive charitable income tax deduction. The company whose stock he previously owned subsequently declared bankruptcy


  • Member, Professional Advisory Committees of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Foundation, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Institute of Arts, and other major charities.
  • Past Chairman of the Professional Advisory Committee of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the mission of which is to provide continuing education on topics related to wealth preservation and charitable giving techniques to lawyers, accountants, and financial professionals.
  • Member, Planned Giving Round Table of Southeast Michigan, and Past Chairman of its LEAVE A LEGACY® Southeast Michigan Speaker's Bureau.
  • Past member of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Michigan Foundation, French-American Chamber of Commerce


  • Member of the faculty for the ICLE post-graduate seminars in estate planning for the Certificate Program in Estate Planning and Administration (seminars presented in 2005-2019)
  • Speaker at ICLE Annual Probate and Estate Planning Institute (2001-2019), generally on topics related to taxes and estate planning
  • "Common Mistakes in Estate Planning for Pet Owners", Leimberg Information Services (LISI) Estate Planning Newsletter #1821 (June 16, 2011)
  • "Business Succession Planning," Michigan Association of CPAs Closely Held Business Forum, May, 2011
  • "The Basic Tax Rules Governing Estate Planning" (ICLE Fundamentals in Estate Planning Course, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2019)
  • "Turning Out the Lights: Succession Planning for Your Retirement, Disability, or Worse" (ICLE 6th Annual Solo & Small Firm Institute, 2009)
  • "Dynasty Trusts: Is Anything Forever?" (ICLE 49th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, 2009)
  • "Planning for the Future of the Estate and Gift Tax" (ICLE/State Bar of Michigan After Hours Tax Law Series: Hot Topics in Estate and Gift Tax, 2009)
  • "Turning Out the Lights: Succession Planning for Your Retirement, Disability, or Worse" (ICLE 48th Annual Probate and Estate Planning Institute, 2008)
  • "Creative Uses of Charitable Gift Annuities" (ICLE Annual Probate & Estate Planning Conference, 2005)
  • "Marketing and Running the Successful Estate Administration Practice" (ICLE Annual Probate & Estate Planning Conference, 2004)
  • "Post-Death Administration: A View from the Trenches" (ICLE After-Hours Tax Series, 2002)
  • "Effective Estate Planning Devices after the 2001 Tax Act" (ICLE Annual Probate & Estate Planning Conference, 2001)
  • "Advising Clients in a Climate of Possible Repeal of the Estate Tax" (ICLE Annual Probate & Estate Planning Conference, 2000)
  • "Prepaying Your Kids' or Grandkids' Tuition...:" Women's American ORT National Reporter, Spring 2000. Article discussing possibility of obtaining unlimited gift tax exemption for prepayment of tuition
  • "Transfer of Wealth in Blended Families" (ICLE Conference on Estate Planning for Second Marriages, 1999)
  • "What Every CPA Needs to Know About Probate," (MACPA Income and Estate Tax Conference, Spring, 2004, and in November, 2004 for the MACPA Personal Financial Planning Conference)


  • Frequent speaker on topics related to estate planning, charitable giving and taxation, for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), Michigan Association of CPA's, civic and religious groups, and major national, international and local charities


  • Bob has appeared on CNN/CNN Financial, on local cable television (including a 2-hour presentation on estate administration), and in radio interviews around the country on the topics of estate planning (including estate planning for pet owners), and estate administration
  • He has been quoted in the Detroit News, Crain's Detroit Business, and other local newspapers, and his publications have been referred to in Bottom Line Personal; Probate & Property, a publication of the Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law of the American Bar Association; and the Journal of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association


  • Kass, R.E., Downie, R.H., and Kim, Y.S., "The Executor’s Companion: A Practical Guide to Estate Administration” (347 pp, Carob Tree Press, 2013), This book (and its predecessor, “What Do We Do Now? A Practical Guide to Estate Administration for Widows, Widowers and Heirs”)  have been used as course material in estate administration throughout the State of Michigan.  It is distributed by law firms, accounting firms and banks to estate administration clients, and has readers throughout the United States and as far away as Guam and the United Kingdom.
  • Kass, R. E., and Carrie, E.A., "Who Will Care When You're Not There? Estate Planning for Pet Owners" (Carob Tree Press, 2011)
  • Kass, Robert.  “To Save the Nation.”  A legal thriller inspired by actual events.  (Carob Tree Press, 2019).  Available on in print, e-book and audiobook.


  • Fluent in French; working knowledge of Spanish


  • Michigan