James L. Starshak - Carlsmith Ball LLP

James L. Starshak

Listed in Best Lawyers since 1983
Phone: 808-523-2515

James Starshak is a partner in the firm's Honolulu office and is a member of the Tax, Estate Planning & Wealth Management practice group. He concentrates his practice on tax, trusts, and estate planning, with an emphasis on the formation of qualified pension plans and estate planning for individuals with substantial amounts held in Individual Retirement Accounts and Qualified Plans. He has also served on several boards and committees for the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, the Hawai‘i Estate Planning Council, and the University of Hawai‘i . 

In 2016, he was listed in Chambers and Partners USA:  America's Leading Lawyers for Business for Labor & Employment:  Employee Benefits & Compensation.  Mr. Starshak was again selected by attorney peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2016 for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, Health Care Law, Non-Profit/Charities Law, and Trusts and Estates.  He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1983.

Representative Matters

Corporate Drafted documentation and performed restructuring of capital for the redemption of a deceased partner for a 20-attorney law firm. Organized real estate spin offs from closely held corporations to its shareholders in a tax advantageous manner. Revised the retirement program, analyzed the financial impact for the majority stockholders and the compensation and retirement benefits impacts. Developed succession plans for small business to transfer ownership from one generation to another; negotiated and prepared the documentation for the sale of medical and dental practices as well as other businesses.

Estate Planning Formed a family limited partnership and grantor retained annuity trust to use valuation and actuarial discounts to reduce taxable gifts. Used tax defective grantor trusts to reduce the taxable estate of the client while not decreasing the cash flow. Created trusts that transferred personal residences to children and discounted values for estate and gift tax purposes. Mr. Starshak also assists clients in retirement planning including cash flow analysis and debt restructuring.

Charitable Trusts Established charitable trusts that avoid the gain on the sale of appreciated property and increase the income stream to the client.

Qualified Plans Established defined benefit pension plans, money purchase pension plans, profit sharing plans including cross tested and age weighted arrangements, and Section 401(k) plans for hundreds of small and large businesses. Used expertise in analyzing the clients' retirement needs while balancing the existing cash flow requirements and costs to provide maximum benefit.

Tax Prepared tax deferred sales of real property, both forward and reverse exchanges.

Prior Work Experience

  • Internal Revenue Service, Tax Attorney


  • Mr. Starshak is the co-author of several publications on Hawai‘i probate, trusts, and estate planning laws and has been an instructor and lecturer at Hawai‘i universities and professional associations.


  • Listed in Chambers and Partners USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2016 for Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation.
  • Highest "AV" Professional Rating, Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
  • Selected by attorney peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2016 in the fields of Employee Benefits Law, Health Care Law, Non-Profit/Charities Law, and Trusts and Estates; listed in the publication since 1983
  • Selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers 2013 for Employment Benefits/ERISA and for Estate Planning & Probate Law


  • Hawai‘i State Bar Association, Taxation Section, Estate and Gift Tax Committee
  • Hawai‘i Estate Planning Council
  • American Bar Association, Taxation Section
  • Hawai‘i Chamber of Commerce, Tax Advisory Committee

University of Notre DameBBA Notre Dame Law School, University of Notre DameJ.D.

Office Location

1001 Bishop Street, Suite 2100
Honolulu, HI 96813
United States

Practice Areas

Closely Held Companies and Family Businesses Law
Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (Pension, Health and Welfare, Retirement Planning, Tax, Trusts and Estates)
Health Care Law
Non-Profit / Charities Law (Employee Benefits, Health Care)
Trusts and Estates (Employee Benefits, Estate Planning, Litigation, Nonprofit Organizations and Charitable Giving, Partnership and Limited Liability, Probate, Succession Planning, Tax, Trust Administration)