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TRUST AND ESTATE LITIGATION

We represent both institutions and individuals in a wide variety of matters, including:

  • Claims for breach of fiduciary duty in the investment or administration of trusts or estate
  • Actions to clarify ambiguous trust language
  • Actions to remove trustees
  • Will contests
  • Actions to set aside wills, trusts or other transactions based on claims of undue influence
  • Disputes that arise following the death or incompetency of a family member

When working with individuals, we strive to help family members comply with their legal obligations while, at the same time, helping them deal with what is often an emotionally charged situation.

The best results are often negotiated settlements–ones that avoid the stress, delay and expense of taking a matter through trial. We take pride in our ability to develop creative and cost-effective solutions to the most challenging legal, business and family disputes. But not every case can be settled outside the courts. We have handled cases in the state and federal courts of Missouri and Illinois, and we have the experience to successfully see the matter through trial and appeal.

Defending a corporate trustee against claims it breached its fiduciary duty

Our attorneys represented an institutional trust company that served for a number of years as co-trustee with the widow of the grantor of the trust. The trust portfolio was heavily concentrated in the stock of the company at which the grantor had been employed. Upon the widow's death, the trust was to terminate and the assets were to be distributed to the grantor's children.

During the last years of the widow's life, the company's stock value decreased dramatically. After the widow's death, the children sued the corporate trustee for breach of fiduciary duty in failing to diversify the trust account. They sought more than $3 million in actual and punitive damages.

Following a week-long trial in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, the Court rendered a judgment finding that our client had not breached its fiduciary duty. We successfully defended the trial court's judgment in the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District, which affirmed the judgment of the trial court in its entirety.

Action to set aside a trust or will

We represented the successor trustee of his father's revocable trust. The only asset in the trust was the father's home. An earlier version of the father's trust provided that the home would be distributed upon his death to his daughter. The father later amended his trust to provide that the home would be divided equally between his son and daughter.

After the father died, the daughter sued our client, both individually and in his capacity as successor trustee, asking the Court set aside the later trust amendment, alleging that her father lacked the necessary mental capacity to amend his trust, or that her father amended the trust as a result of undue influence exerted by her brother.

After an unsuccessful attempt to reach an amicable resolution of the dispute, we tried the case in St. Louis County Circuit Court, obtaining a judgment in favor of our client. The court upheld the validity of the trust amendments, ordered the sister to deliver possession of the property to our client as trustee, and required her to pay rent to the trust for the period during which she occupied the property without permission.

Enforcement of contract to make a will

Our client in this case was divorced in 1972. As part of the divorce agreement, her ex-husband agreed to make a will leaving his entire estate at his death to the couple's four children. Many years later, when the ex-husband died, it was revealed that he had reneged on this obligation and had instead drafted a "pour-over" will and revocable trust that left his entire estate to the children of his second wife.

We brought suit in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis to enforce the ex-husband's contractual obligation to make a will in favor of our client's children. The trial court ruled in favor of our client, and ordered that the trust be reformed to provide that all assets be distributed to the children of our client. We successfully defended the trial court's judgment in the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed the judgment in all respects.

Saving the family farm from being sold to pay estate expenses

We were retained to represent our client following the entry of an Order by the Probate Court for Carter County, Missouri, authorizing the sale of approximately 700 acres of real estate located in Southeast Missouri. Our client was the ex-husband of the decedent, who died without a will leaving two minor children as her only heirs. Following her death, the children's father was appointed their guardian and conservator, and was acting on their behalf in the probate proceedings.

The real estate in question had been in the family for nearly 100 years, and its value far exceeded any claims or debts of the estate. Nevertheless, the probate court had ordered the property sold at the request of the personal representative, who argued that it was impractical for the minor heirs to manage or operate the property.

When we were retained, the property was scheduled for a public auction within ten days. We filed an appeal of the Probate Court's order and successfully obtained a stay of the sale pending resolution of the appeal. Thereafter, we successfully negotiated a resolution that allowed a limited amount of the acreage to be sold to pay legitimate debts and claims of the estate, but preserved the rest of the real estate for the minor children.

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Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6126

Mike has extensive experience handling probate and trust litigation for both fiduciaries and beneficiaries and leads the Firm's Trust and Estate Litigation practice.

Mike has extensive experience handling probate and trust litigation for bot...

Mike Bartolacci
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6011

Henry is a partner in the firm's Tax Practice Area.

Henry is a partner in the firm's Tax Practice Area.

Henry Bettendorf
Partner
Chicago
312 580 2206

Scott's practice focuses in the areas of family wealth preservation, federal transfer taxation, and family business planning.

Scott's practice focuses in the areas of family wealth preservation, federa...

Scott Bieber
Associate
St. Louis
314 552 6574

Shaun represents clients in all types of complex business and commercial litigation matters in state and federal courts across Missouri and Illinois.

Shaun represents clients in all types of complex business and commercial li...

Shaun Broeker
Associate
Chicago
312 580 5047

Sarah helps individuals and families preserve their wealth by developing strategies to safeguard their assets in the most tax-efficient way.

Sarah helps individuals and families preserve their wealth by developing st...

Sarah Chang
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6022

Tom's practice focuses on the areas of estate planning and administration, federal estate and gift tax compliance and controversy, organizational, tax and succession plan...

Tom's practice focuses on the areas of estate planning and administration, ...

Tom Corbett
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6027

For 35 years, Steve has focused his practice on succession planning for family businesses, including the areas of estate planning, taxation, estate and trust administrati...

For 35 years, Steve has focused his practice on succession planning for fam...

Steve Cupples
Partner
Chicago
312 580 2303

Georgia serves as an estate planning advisor and personal general counsel to closely-held businesses, business leaders, and other individuals.

Georgia serves as an estate planning advisor and personal general counsel t...

Georgia Loukas Demeros
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6588

Jackie's practice is focused on representation of individuals and families in the areas of estate planning and charitable giving and representation of nonprofit organizat...

Jackie's practice is focused on representation of individuals and families ...

Jackie Dimmitt
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6312

Laura's practice is focused on all aspects of estate planning, including the preparation of estate planning documents, probate and tax law, tax planning and business succ...

Laura's practice is focused on all aspects of estate planning, including th...

Laura Duncan
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6035

Jim serves as a key advisor to regional medical groups on the full spectrum of business and regulatory issues they encounter while providing medical services.

Jim serves as a key advisor to regional medical groups on the full spectrum...

Jim Fogle
Associate
Los Angeles
310 282 2507

Jessica represents clients in estate planning, trust administration and probate matters.

Jessica represents clients in estate planning, trust administration and pro...

Jessica Gordon
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6151

Steve is a nationally recognized practitioner in the areas of estate planning and the structuring of privately held businesses.

Steve is a nationally recognized practitioner in the areas of estate planni...

Steve Gorin
Senior Counsel
St. Louis
314 552 6400

Paul focuses his practice on employee benefits law and taxation.

Paul focuses his practice on employee benefits law and taxation.

Paul Griesemer
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6187

Larry is a nationally known authority on estate planning and planned giving.

Larry is a nationally known authority on estate planning and planned giving...

Larry Katzenstein
Counsel
St. Louis
314 552 6357

Katie advises families and helps them develop appropriate estate plans for their individual circumstances.

Katie advises families and helps them develop appropriate estate plans for ...

Katie Knapp
Associate
St. Louis
314 552 6267

Alicia represents clients in complex business disputes at the trial and appellate level.

Alicia represents clients in complex business disputes at the trial and app...

Alicia Konstantinovich
Partner
Chicago
312 580 2242

Litigation can be a chess match or a street fight: Rob has the skills and experience needed to navigate either approach.

Litigation can be a chess match or a street fight: Rob has the skills and e...

Rob Lang
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6073

Joe is a longtime member and former chair of our Private Client group.

Joe is a longtime member and former chair of our Private Client group.

Joseph Logan
Partner
Chicago
312 580 2231

Ed counsels individuals and businesses on a broad spectrum of estate, trust, business, and tax planning matters.

Ed counsels individuals and businesses on a broad spectrum of estate, trust...

Ed McGillen
Partner
Chicago
312 580 2311

Dave is a practical and resourceful business litigator with a long track record of successful results.

Dave is a practical and resourceful business litigator with a long track re...

Dave Rownd
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6242

Cathie defends clients in all types of business litigation in state and federal courts throughout Missouri and Illinois.

Cathie defends clients in all types of business litigation in state and fed...

Cathie Schroeder
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6316

Lacey has extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning, estate and trust administration and charitable giving.

Lacey has extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning, estate an...

Lacey Searfoss
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6562

Jason is a trusted legal advisor to multi-generational families and their businesses.

Jason is a trusted legal advisor to multi-generational families and their b...

Jason Thein
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6273

As an experienced litigator in Missouri courts and beyond, Maria has achieved significant results for clients in the banking litigation and fiduciary litigation arenas.

As an experienced litigator in Missouri courts and beyond, Maria has achiev...

Maria Zschoche