Walter | Haverfield litigates Trust and Estate disputes of many kinds including actions contesting the validity of Wills and Trusts, claims of undue influence, claims for breaches of fiduciary duties against Trustees and actions for the removal of trustees, demands for accountings and other matters related to the administration of Wills and Trusts. The firm represents both trustees and beneficiaries and its experience includes estates of high net worth families as well as more modest estates and trusts. To the extent that the Trust and Estate matters cannot be resolved the firm has experienced trial attorneys who have litigated high stakes Trust and Estate matters in both federal and state courts and fully understand how to proceed at trial if necessary.
The team served as lead counsel in a trial in Probate Court in Cuyahoga County, Ohio in the defense of the estate of a matriarch of a high-net-worth family against a claim by two of her adult children that her will and trust were the product of undue influence exerted by the youngest of her five children. They represented the accused and the two other adult siblings who were named both individually and as executors and trustees in the case. Plus, they coordinated a strategic defense of the case based on the firm belief that the plaintiffs would not prevail at trial because no undue influence ever occurred. At the close of the plaintiffs’ case, the team moved the court for a directed verdict. Though rarely granted in a jury trial, the judge in this case agreed that the plaintiff had not presented sufficient evidence on the substantial elements of their case for it to proceed further with the jury. Their Motion for a Directed Verdict was granted. This was an extraordinary result and one that demonstrates the value of thorough preparation and effective lawyering.
The team successfully defended a trustee of an ultra-high-net-worth family trust against claims that their client, both individually and as the president of a family office, breached certain fiduciary duties by failing to properly oversee the management of trust assets. The plaintiff claimed that the client allowed the investment manager charged with overseeing the trust to invest too heavily in precious metals and in particular, gold. The plaintiffs also sued the investment manager who successfully argued that a short statute of limitations applied leaving the client as the principal target. Rather than succumb to demands for millions of dollars in alleged “damages,” the client chose to proceed to trial. During five days of trial before a jury, the team demonstrated that the claims against their client were wholly without merit. This led to the dismissal of all claims against the client before the plaintiff rested its case. This outcome completely vindicated the client who was deeply appreciative of the team’s efforts.
The team represented the beneficiaries of an ultra-high-net-worth family trust. The litigation involved a claim for trustee fees and counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty and was litigated in federal court for almost two years. The matter was resolved with a confidential settlement (Jacobs v. Jacobs, Case No. 1:07-CV-01043, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, J. Boyko).
The team represented the beneficiaries of a trust in resolving a dispute with a trustee arising from certain investment decisions made by that trustee. The amount at issue was in excess of $1 million and was resolved without litigation.