Probate Litigation Attorneys
Trust Disputes / Declaratory Judgments
- Represented a major hospital in defense of declaratory judgment action brought by regional bank seeking a determination that a charitable bequest had lapsed and seeking to eliminate the bequest to the hospital. In summary judgment, the court determined that a merger with the specifically identified predecessor hospital and change of hospital name did not destroy the bequest and, therefore, the hospital received full distribution by order of the court.
- Represented an attorney who prepared a trust on behalf of his client. His client named the attorney as trustee. Following the funding and execution of the trust, the client began exhibiting signs of mental incompetence. The client, under suspicious circumstances, sent a letter to trustee purporting to revoke the trust. Subsequently, client was declared incompetent and a guardian was appointed over the decedent. The trust substantially reduced the share of assets to be distributed to the settlor's daughter. The daughter sued. In defense of the trustee, we successfully argued the case should be dismissed.
- Represented bankruptcy trustee in action to set aside an alleged qualified personal residence trust executed by a bankruptcy debtor and funded with a $2 million parcel of real estate. During the proceedings, we obtained and presented evidence demonstrating that the so-called trust was a sham and that the act of funding the trust with the debtor's real estate was a fraudulent conveyance. The case was settled whereby the bankruptcy trustee recovered a substantial percentage of the value of the real estate upon its sale.
- Represented son in a complex trust/breach of fiduciary duty and asset transfer case. Several years before their deaths, mother and father each executed amendments to their trusts. The amendment reduced the son's share so that the son would only receive real estate. Brother took over as trustee and also held power of attorney over his parents. Thereafter, various parcels of real estate were gifted and/or sold for cash, reducing further son's share of the trust. In addition, bank accounts were designated with new survivor beneficiaries further diminishing the share of assets available to son in the event that the trusts of mother and/or father were set aside. Through fact discovery and the use of handwriting analysis, son leveraged a confidential settlement.
- Decedent created a living trust and demonstrated intent to fund that trust with all of her assets. Prior to her trust, several of the beneficiaries of the trust "assisted" the decedent with the titling of the assets. The assets ended up titled survivorship and payable on death to the beneficiaries assisting the decedent. We represented two beneficiaries of the trust whose share of the trust was eradicated by the conduct of the other beneficiaries. By agreement, our clients received their fair share of the inheritance.
- Represented several children seeking to set aside the amendment of a trust executed by their mother. After the children had grown, mother remarried and began exhibiting signs of dementia. Mother was under the control of the stepfather and was forced to execute a trust amendment that provided first for the stepfather and then, second, if stepfather predeceased, to the stepfather's adult children. Children received settlement representing their fair share of the trust proceeds.
- Represented trustee and beneficiaries under trust in effort to declare rights and obligations as to whether the estate and beneficiaries of assets, received through survivor designation and/or gift, were required to pay a fair portion of estate taxes generated in excess of $2,000,000. Action resulted in third party beneficiaries agreeing to pay the fair share of the generated estate taxes.
- Represented second wife in action brought by children from previous marriage of the decedent. The decedent left a will and trust which provided for the surviving spouse and the children. Children brought suit against the surviving spouse alleging that the share of proceeds to be distributed to the surviving spouse were to be reduced by monies received by the surviving spouse outside of probate, including the payment of certain debt obligations. Parties agreed to a distribution of assets in an equitable fashion.
- Represented grandchildren in a contest against their grandfather's trust amendment. Several weeks after grandson's father passed away, the grandson's uncle and aunt prepared an amendment to the decedent's Trust, cutting out the grandchildren. Grandchildren received a large cash settlement approximating the value they would have received but for the execution of the amendment to the trust.
- Represented bank, as Trustee over several million dollars in Trust, in defense of lawsuit filed by Trust beneficiaries alleging that Trustee breached its fiduciary duty by retaining, rather than selling, family company stock thereby causing the Trust not to make as much profit/gain over 30 years of Trust management. In light of language in Trust giving authority to retain stock and release of liability for doing so, we obtained dismissal of lawsuit, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, on the basis that Trustee made plenty of money for the Trust over the years and was within its discretion to hold stock in light of the Trust's explicit language indicating a preference to hold the stock. Also we were successful in having the trial court order the beneficiaries and Trust pay the Trustee's substantial attorney fees in their entirety.
- Decedent lived in Southern Ohio and ultimately executed a Trust with a lawyer to whom the decedent's banker directed him. Rather than give decedent's money to family members, upon his death, the Trust provided for the decedent's bank to receive substantial discretion to forever manage the Trust assets for charitable purposes. Several years later, after decedent moved back to Northeast Ohio to be closer to family, decedent changed his Will and amended his Trust with assistance of a reputable estate planning attorney. The changes modified decedent's estate plan by naming a family member as Trustee and Executor, giving 30 relatives shares of the Trust, and naming a local charity as a remainder beneficiary. The Southern Ohio bank, claiming the new Trust was not valid, denied the family member/Trustee/Executor's demand that the Southern Ohio bank transfer the decedent's $3+ million dollar in assets to new Trustee/Executor. We filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family member/Trustee to declare as valid the new Trust benefiting the decedent's family and the local charity. A settlement was reached distributing a substantial sum to the new Trust thereby benefiting the decedent's family and the local charity.
- Represented a bank Trustee in a declaratory judgment lawsuit seeking to determine what the deceased grantor of a Trust meant and intended when he established a trust in 1934 for the benefit of his children and grandchildren. Use of somewhat antiquated language in the Trust created a question whether the grantor's use of Trust language evidenced the intent to include in the class of grandchildren an adopted child of the decedent's child. The Court entered judgment that included the adopted person in the class of beneficiaries thereby resulting in the adopted person receiving a substantial inheritance.
- Represented an institutional Trustee involved in a dispute arising out of a beneficiary declining to repay a sizeable loan from the Trust to purchase real estate which was secured by a promissory note. The institutional Trustee, feeling the beneficiary acted fraudulently towards the Trustee in securing the loan, ultimately filed a Complaint for Instructions and Declaratory Judgment with the Court to accept Trustee resignation, have the Trust administration approved, have the Trustee released, and to appoint a successor Trustee. The beneficiary requested the Court deny approval of the account and cause the institutional Trustee to disgorge its fiduciary and sizeable attorney fees. Following a bench trial, the judge issued a favorable judgment entry approving the institutional Trustee’s request inclusive of payment of attorney fees and Trustee fees.