Overview

We provide a full range of support services to private and professional fiduciaries. We understand the fiduciary’s need to provide the highest quality services to its customers and beneficiaries and protect itself from liabilities while operating a profitable and efficient business. Combining extensive experience in personal estate planning, business succession planning, taxation, probate administration, conflict resolution and litigation, our lawyers work with fiduciaries to recognize and manage risks. When a dispute occurs, our assistance may help the fiduciary resolve it without litigation. When litigation is unavoidable, we can help protect the trustee’s position.

Consulting

Fiduciaries often confront complex laws that apply to the administration of trusts and estates and divergent interests of beneficiaries and other stakeholders. Our broad experience in advising fiduciaries in complex matters includes:

  • Advising fiduciaries concerning the redemption of interests in a family business and related tax considerations.
  • Resolving the divergent demands of beneficiaries to avoid litigation over trust ownership and management of concentrated business holdings.
  • Counseling fiduciaries with respect to concentrated investment positions and the fiduciary duty to diversify investments.
  • Identifying and protecting fiduciaries from personal estate tax liability.
  • Advising fiduciaries of their principal distribution obligations under state delayed income statutes.
  • Redesigning IRA investment accounts and documents to facilitate their integration with customers’ estate plans.
  • Training fiduciary officers on successful administration of IRAs.
  • Advising trustees in actions necessary to protect trust assets that are exempt from generation-skipping taxes and creating separate trusts when necessary to preserve the exempt status of assets.
  • Counseling trustees concerning the “decanting” of trusts into new trusts to accomplish a variety of objectives, including, for example, to minimize taxes, change governance provisions and/or modify beneficial interests and powers held by family members.

Litigation

When litigation is required, our extensive litigation experience and capacity is available to help protect the fiduciary’s interests. We are able to staff litigation of all sizes and degrees of complexity with lawyers who are trained and experienced in the substantive law as well as trial practice. Our broad experience in representing fiduciaries in court proceedings includes:

  • Counseling trustees on appropriateness of actions with regards to the proper allocation of assets among beneficiaries and the proper apportionment of tax liabilities among the beneficiaries.
  • Reforming trusts to secure favorable tax treatment, including rulings from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Obtaining judicial determinations on the acceleration of a remainder interest.
  • Defending trust properties against creditors.
Experience
Representative Experience
  • Managing the redemption of the fiduciary's shares in a family corporation while avoiding the application of the family attribution rules which would have caused the redemption proceeds to be taxed at ordinary income rates.
  • Resolving the divergent demands of beneficiaries and avoiding threatened litigation where some beneficiaries demanded the trustee liquidate major real estate holdings while other beneficiaries insisted that the trustee retain the real estate, under an instrument containing vague and contradictory requirements for the management of the real estate.
  • Structuring an arrangement allowing a fiduciary to diversify an excessively concentrated portfolio to reduce the fiduciary's risk while satisfying the demands of certain beneficiaries that the portfolio remain undiversified.
  • Identifying and protecting the fiduciary from personal estate tax liability in the proposed distribution of trust property subject to estate tax claims.
  • Advising the fiduciary of its principal distribution obligations under state delayed income statutes.
  • Redesigning IRA investment accounts and documents to facilitate their integration with customers' estate plans and training the fiduciary officers to administer those accounts successfully.
  • Advising an executor as to the extent that certain assets owned by a decedent could be deemed a "collection" and so could not be disposed of under the bequest of household furniture, furnishings and personal property contained in the will.
  • Advising a trustee in the actions necessary to protect the generation-skipping tax (GST) exemptions of trust assets and creating separate trusts when necessary.
  • Advising a corporate trustee in protecting itself from liability for losses of trust value incurred due to the failure to diversify 80% of the trust estate when the individual trustee refused to cooperate with the diversification.
Litigation and Other Formal Proceedings
  • Defending the trustee of a private charitable trust, established for the benefit of a municipality, against claims by the municipality when the trustee refused to commit funds to build a municipal building, resulting in a determination that the citizens, rather than the municipality, were the beneficiaries and upholding the trustee's decision.
  • Defending a bank trustee in a class action involving competing beneficiaries of a multimillion dollar charitable trust.
  • Defending a bank trustee in federal court regarding breach of fiduciary duty claims arising out of real estate investments brought by beneficiaries of a multimillion dollar charitable lead annuity trust.
  • Defending the bank trustees of a significant 401(k) plan in a class action suit brought in federal court by plan participants and beneficiaries who asserted claims for breach of fiduciary duty relating to stock investments.
  • Defending an individual trustee in a federal action brought by the Department of Labor under ERISA in connection with an ESOP valuation.
  • Obtaining declaratory judgment for the protection of a bank trustee regarding the appropriateness of the trustee's actions and expenses in determining the identities of heirs, the proper allocation of assets among the beneficiaries, the proper apportionment of tax liabilities among the beneficiaries and in resolving a dispute as to the designation of a successor trustee.
  • Judicially reforming a trust to secure favorable tax treatment and obtaining a favorable ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Obtaining a judicial determination of the acceleration of a remainder interest in connection with a disclaimer.
  • Defending the trust property against creditors' attempts to reach it to satisfy claims against beneficiaries.
  • Obtaining an Internal Revenue Service Private Letter Ruling approving a qualified personal residence trust including 50 acres of farmland as well as the principal residence.