Michael L. Miller

Tax and Employee Benefits Attorney
Ward and Smith, P.A.
252.672.5466 Fax 252.672.5477
Email mlm@wardandsmith.com
Post Office Box 867, New Bern, NC 28563-0867

Michael practices in an array of tax-related areas, guiding clients in both planning and dispute resolution.  His practice areas include trusts and estates, taxation of business enterprises, and employee benefits/ERISA.  Michael's estate planning practice focuses upon comprehensive planning for business owners, executives, and professionals; tax-planning strategies; and other complex planning issues.  He also is regularly involved in the preparation of trusts, wills, and other estate planning documents.  Michael advises business enterprises in connection with corporate and partnership tax issues, and assists in choice-of-entity decisions, business restructuring, and succession planning.  His practice also involves retirement plans, health and welfare plans, and executive compensation.  He has substantial experience in addressing both design and corrective issues facing such benefit plans, including plan audits by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor. 

Michael is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the North Carolina State Bar, and is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.  He has taught the Advanced Pension and Profit-Sharing Plans course in the University of Baltimore Law School Graduate Tax Program, and has lectured on many tax topics for Bar Association seminars.  Michael has been rated by his peers as preeminent in his respective fields of law.


  • LL.M., Taxation, University of Denver, 1980
  • J.D., University of Denver Sturm College of Law, 1978
  • B.A., University of Denver, 1974

Representative Experience

  • Analysis of executive compensation, ERISA, and tax issues associated with bank mergers
  • Representation of clients in an IRS audit of the sale of a business to a "grantor" trust, ending in a "no change" result
  • Advising business owners on integrating captive insurance companies into their business and estate planning
  • Representation of a cooperative in restructuring its patronage allocation model
  • Assisting a client in structuring a business sale through a charitable trust
  • Representation of a nationwide business in disputes concerning multi-state tax issues
  • Advising a client on tax and estate planning opportunities in connection with a $40 million liquidity event
  • Restructuring of a timber business to address liability, tax, and succession issues

Honors and Distinctions*

  • The Best Lawyers in America, 1991-2019
  • "Lawyer of the Year," Best Lawyers®, 2014
  • "Legal Elite," Business North Carolina, 2003 and 2013
  • "Super Lawyer," North Carolina Super Lawyers, 2006-2017

Best Lawyers Logo     Super Lawyers Logo

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
  • North Carolina Bar Association — Sections: Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law; Tax Law
  • Wake County Estate Planning Council, Inc.

Admitted to Practice

  • North Carolina, 1980
  • All state courts in North Carolina
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth and Sixth Circuits
  • United States District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of North Carolina
  • United States Tax Court

About Me

I have migrated from our Asheville office in the mountains to the Raleigh office, and recently to the New Bern office near the coast (gravity!), which has given me the opportunity to work with clients facing very diverse issues.

I have a couple of great passions, both of which I share with my wife.  Although the US Tennis Association has a legal injunction precluding me from using the word "tennis" to describe what I do on the courts, that is one.  Another is sailing, particularly aboard our sailboat, Good Decision.

* Please see the following websites for an explanation of the membership standards for the following recognitions: www.bestlawyers.com; businessnc.com/special-sections/legal-elite/; and www.superlawyers.com/north-carolina.

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