David A. Handler is a partner in the Trusts and Estates Practice Group of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He concentrates his practice on trust and estate planning and administration, representing owners of closely-held businesses, family offices, principals of private equity and venture capital funds, individuals and families of significant wealth, and establishing and administering private foundations and other charitable organizations.

David is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and a member of the NAEPC Estate Planning Hall of Fame as an Accredited Estate Planner (Distinguished). He is the creator or co-creator of the “HEET trust,” the “RPM Trust” and the “Guaranteed GRAT,” among other innovations. David is also a member of the professional advisory committees of several nonprofit organizations, including the Chicago Community Trust, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Goodman Theatre, WTTW11/98.7WFMT (Chicago public broadcasting stations) and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

David is ranked in “Band 1” by Chambers USA in the Wealth Management category with interviewees noting that he “is considered to be one of the true authorities in the field of estate planning," as well as "very personable and has a creative mind” and praising him as "the foremost authority in working with private equity firms and their MDs regarding their planning." A peer commented to Chambers that he is “fantastic and has pioneered nuanced techniques. He is absolutely as bright as can be and top-notch," with another peer noting that "he made a name for himself coming up with strategies for private equity principals.” He is one of only 16 U.S. lawyers (as of 2015) ranked in “Band 1” by Chambers USA in the Wealth Management category.

He is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America© (Trusts and Estates) and was named its 2018 Trusts and Estates “Chicago Lawyer of the Year,” and is listed in the Guide to the World’s Leading Trusts and Estates Practitioners, in Who’s Who Legal: Private Client.

David received the Austin Fleming Distinguished Service Award from the Chicago Estate Planning Council. Leading Lawyers Magazine has listed David as one of the “Top Ten Trust, Will & Estate” lawyers in Illinois as well as a “Top 100 Consumer” lawyer in Illinois.

David is an Editorial Advisory Board Member of Trusts & Estates Magazine for which he has written the monthly “tax update” column for more than 10 years. He is also a co-author of an e-book on estate planning, The Complete Estate Planning Sourcebook (published by Wolters Kluwer). He has authored many articles that have appeared in prominent estate planning and taxation journals, magazines and newsletters, including Lawyer’s Weekly, Trusts & Estates Magazine, Estate Planning Magazine, Journal of Taxation, Tax Management Estates, Gifts and Trusts Journal, The Chase Journal and RIA’s Estate Planner’s Alert. He is regularly interviewed for trade and news periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Lawyer’s Weekly, Registered Representative, Financial Advisor, Worth and Bloomberg Wealth Manager magazines.


Thought Leadership


The Complete Estate Planning Sourcebook (Wolters Kluwer)

Drafting the Estate Plan: Law and Forms (CCH)

Essential Estate Planning: A Definitive Guide to Planning and Practice

Chapter titled "Asset Freeze and Valuation Reduction Techniques" in Estate Planning for Illinois Attorneys: The Basics and Beyond, published by Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), 2001, 2003 and 2007 supplement

Contributing Editor of the American Bankers Association Estate Planning Manual (1998–1999)


Venture Capital Review:

"Using Derivatives to 'Transfer' Carried Interests in Private Equity, LBO and Venture Capital Funds" - Spring 2006

"Carry Derivatives: Using Your Carried Interest in Your Estate Plan" - 2015

Trusts & Estates Magazine:

Author of Monthly Tax Update column - 2003 - present

"Economically Zeroed-Out GRATs Produce the Best Results" - January 1999

"Discounts: Know When to Hold 'Em" - October 1999

"Guaranteed GRATs: GRATs Without Mortality Risk" - December 1999

"GRAT Remainder Sale to a Dynasty Trust" - December 1999

"Retaining Testamentary Power of Appointment" - January 2000

"RPM Trusts: Turning the Table on Chapter 14" - July 2000

"The HEET Trust: A New Twist on Section 2503(e)" - July 2000

"Locking-In The Benefits of Investment-Driven Estate Planning Strategies" - January 2001

"The Estate Trust Revival: Maximizing the Full Basis Step-Up for Spouses" - August 2001

"Uses and Benefits of Conservation Easements After the 2001 Tax Act" - December 2001

"Fresh Thinking About Gift-Splitting" - January 2002

"The GRAT Remainder Sale" - December 2002

"Tax-Free Gifts of Prepaid Tuition" - February 2003

"Avoid FLPs" - May 2003

"FLPs vs. RMAs" - August 2003

"Tax Year in Review" (pullout supplement) - Annually 2003 through present

"Bona Fide Sale" - February 2005

"The Power of Grantor Trusts" - March 2006

"The Case for Principle Trusts and Against Incentive Trusts" - October 2008

"The Net Gift Strategy: Good for a Bear Market" - December 2008

"Scratching Your Head Over Estate Plans" - August 2010

"Planning at the Eleventh Hour" - 2016

"Lifetime Transfers of Appreciating Assets" - January 2016

“Planning at the Eleventh Hour- Part II” - 2019

“The Transfer Tax Playbook” - July 2019

“Senior Powers of Appointment” - August 2020

“Help—My Child is About to Receive A Windfall!” - September 2021

Bloomberg BNA Estates, Gifts and Trusts Journal:

"Life After Strangi: What to Do with Existing Entities" - Volume 29, No. 3, May 13, 2004

"GRATs and RPM Annuity Trusts: A Comparison" - Volume 29, No. 4, July 8, 2004

"RPM Trusts: A Better Way to Transfer Wealth" - 2009

"Just Give ‘Em the Money: Taxable Gifts as a Wealth Transfer Strategy" - July 2016

Estate Planner's Alert RIA:

"Practice Alert: Accumulation QTIP Trusts: The Overlooked Provisions of the Marital Deduction Regulations" - March 2000

Estate Planning Magazine:

"The LPA LID: A New Way to 'Contain' Gift Revaluations" - June 2000

“Charitable Giving Ideas Using Private Equity Interests” - July 2016

CCH Journal of Practical Estate Planning:

"Self-Adjusting GRATs" - October 2005

CCH Financial and Estate Planning:

"Self-Adjusting GRATs" - March 2006

CCH Journal of Retirement Planning:

"Self-Adjusting GRATs" - February 2006

Chase Journal:

"Investment-Driven Estate Planning: Why Make It If You Can't Keep It?" - Volume IV, Issue 2, 2000

Journal of Taxation:

Co-author of "Tax Consequences of Outstanding Trust Liabilities When Grantor Status Terminates" - Volume 95, No. 1, July 2001

Co-author of "Formula Disclaimers: Procter-Proofing Gift Revaluations" - March 2002

Estate Tax Planning Advisor:

"Using Net Gifts to Reduce Gift Tax Exposure" - February 2003

Lawyer's Weekly:

"RPM Annuity Trusts: A 'GReAT' Alternative - January 2004

Northwestern Mutual Advanced Planning Bulletin:

"Making and Optimizing Gifts and Bequests to Pay Educational and Medical Expenses" - July 2007

On Wall Street:

"Lesson from the Michael Jackson Estates" - August 2009

"The Future of the Estate Tax is Upon Us" - December 2009

Philip E. Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning

"Financed Net Gifts Compared to Sales to Grantor-Trusts" - 2010, Volume 44

"There's No Place Like Home-Unless You Give It Away" - 2012, Volume 46

New York University Institute on Federal Taxation

"Alternative Planning Strategies to Enhance GRATs and IDGTs: Decreasing Short-Term GRATS and Financed Net Gifts as an Alternative to Sales" - 2009, Volume 67

"Evaluating the Sometimes Surprising Impact of Grantor Trusts on Competing Strategies to Transfer Wealth" - 2010, Volume 68

"Estate Planning with Disregarded Entities" - 2012, Volume 70

Steve Leimberg's Estate Planning Newsletter

"The Estate Trust Revival: Maximizing Full Basis Step-Up"

"Estate Planning with Disregarded Entities" - 2015

Family Business Magazine:

"Preserving Wealth and Family Values: Reality Collides with Conventional Wisdom" - 2016


Chicago Estate Planning Council (2003, 2005, 2011, 2015, 2020)

IICLE Annual Estate Planning Short Course (2003–2007, 2019, 2020)

BNA Tax Management Estates, Gifts and Trust Advisory Board Meeting (2004, 2009, 2016)

Notre Dame Annual Estate Planning Institute (2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013–2019)

New York Institute on Federal Taxation (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013)

JPMorgan Private Client Services Group (2006, 2014, 2016)

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Council of Advanced Practitioners Program (2006, 2011)

University of Miami Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2020)

HSBC (2010)

Goodman Theatre Spotlight Society (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019)

JPMorgan and Chicago Botanic Garden (2010)

WTTW Planned Giving Seminar (2010, 2016, 2019) 

Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum (2010)

Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) (2010)

Chicago Bar Association (2011, 2012)

Brownson, Rehmus & Foxworth Fall Meeting (2011)

Austin Bar Association (2012)

South Dakota Bar Association (2012)

Crowe Horwath meeting (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019)

Forum 400 (2013)

Denver Estate Planning Council (2013)

Illinois CPA Society Estate and Gift Tax Conference (2013)

Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (2013)

National Association of Estate Planners and Councils Annual Conference (2013)

Milwaukee Estate Planning Forum (2014, 2018)

Camp Owners & Directors Association (2014)

AICPA Conference on Tax Strategies for High Income Individuals (2014)

American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law 25th Annual Spring CLE Symposium (2014)

Estate Planning Council of St. Louis (2015)

Greater North Shore Estate and Financial Planning Council (2015)

Portland Estate Planning Council (2015)

Tax Planning for High Net Worth Clients (joint CPA firm symposium) (2015)

Essex County Estate Planning Council (2015)

Wealth & Estate Planning Seminar sponsored by The Community Foundation, Florida Atlantic University and United Way of Palm Beach County (2015)

American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Webinar (2015)

Annual Duke University Estate Planning Conference (2015)

Palm Beach County Wealth & Estate Planning Seminar (2015)

Plante Moran (2015)

Brown Brothers Harriman (2016)

Northern Trust Wealth Management Educational Seminar (2016, 2017)

Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Bronstein Seminar for Professionals (2016)

Baltimore Estate Planning Council (2016)

Ohio State Bar Association 27th Annual Estate Planning Conference on Wealth Transfer (2016)

San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and its Professional Advisor Network (2016)

ACTEC Summer Boot Camp (2016)

ABA Webinar (2016)

Norfolk & Plymouth Estate and Business Planning Council (2017)

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation (2017)

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (2017)

ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estae Law Spring Symposia (2019)

Texas Bar Association (2019)

ACTEC Spring Meeting (2019)

USC Tax Institute (2020)

Family Finance Virtual Event: Create Your Legacy (2021) 

Stanford Global Family Office Conference (2021)


Trusts & Estates Magazine 2017 Distinguished Author Award in the Thought Leadership category 

Recipient of Austin Fleming Distinguished Service Award from the Chicago Estate Planning Council (2015)

Bloomberg BNA Estates, Gifts and Trusts Contributor of the Year (2016)

NAEPC Estate Planning Hall of Fame as an Accredited Estate Planner (Distinguished)

Trusts & Estates Trailblazer by The National Law Journal (2016)

Listed in Band 1 for Wealth Management in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business

Listed in The Best Lawyers in America©, Best Lawyers in America (Trusts and Estates) and its 2015 and 2019 Trusts and Estates “Chicago Lawyer of the Year”

Top 100 lawyers in Illinois in the 2006 “Illinois Super Lawyers” list

Memberships & Affiliations

American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) Fellow

Tax Management Estates, Gifts and Trusts Advisory Board

Professional Advisory Committee of the Chicago Community Trust

Chicago Estate Planning Council

WTTW11/98.7WFMT Planned Giving Advisory Committee (Chicago public broadcasting stations)

The Goodman Theatre Professional Advisory Board (2005–present; chair 2011–2013)

Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Professional Advisory Committee

The Art Institute of Chicago Gift Planning Advisory Committee

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago - Legacy Partners

American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

West Northfield School District 31 School Board Member (2000–2013, President 2010–2013)

Editorial Advisory Board Member of Trusts & Estates Magazine


Admissions & Qualifications

  • 1992Illinois
  • 2006New York


  • Northwestern Pritzker School of LawJ.D.1992
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gies College of BusinessB.S., Financewith Highest Honors1989

    Top Ten Senior Award

    Senior 100 Honorary

    Financial Management Association

    Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies