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Trusts and Estates Litigation

Trusts and estates cases often involve layers of complexity--the interpretation of trust instruments and wills, the scope of fiduciary obligations, family discord and strife, managing businesses in which trusts have partial or complete ownership, valuation and accounting for trust assets such as closely-held companies and real estate holdings, tax ramifications that impact trust and probate administration, and personal property issues. At Miller Nash Graham & Dunn, we approach these issues, not only with our well-honed litigation skills, but with pragmatism and solution-driven thinking, always mindful of the monetary and emotional costs that are an inherent part of this type of dispute. In addition to our estates and trusts litigators, we have teams of estate planners, tax attorneys, real estate attorneys, and environmental attorneys to lend their specialized knowledge as needed.

We handle a broad range of complex trusts and estates litigation and regularly provide advice in contentious trusts and estates matters in an effort to help our clients resolve issues without litigation when possible. We act on behalf of institutional and individual trustees, fiduciaries, and beneficiaries, including charitable and nonprofit organizations.

By way of example, we have handled claims and litigation including:

  • Breaches of fiduciary duty claims based on accounting for and valuation of trust assets, scope and magnitude of discretionary distributions, administration of significant and complex trusts, tax issues, and management of trust assets including real property and ownership interests in limited liability companies 
  • Disputes arising from ambiguous provisions in wills and trusts
  • Trust and will contests
  • Disputes over trustee compensation
  • Undue influence and incapacity claims
  • Trust modification and termination matters
  • Disputed bequests to charitable and nonprofit organizations
  • Enforceability of charitable pledge agreements
  • Contested conservatorship and guardianship proceedings

Representative Experience

  • Representation of a trust company acting as a successor trustee and special fiduciary for a financially-incapacitated settlor in administering trusts that collectively held in excess of $100 million of real property, in addition to cash assets, in litigation and trust administration involving numerous disputes among family member beneficiaries, both before and after death of settlor, appraisal and valuation of trust assets, and ongoing management and development of commercial properties owned by the trusts.
    Representation of family-member trustees in dispute with sibling beneficiaries, regarding valuation and management of ongoing family business enterprise, including disputes regarding discounts of fractional interests in business for lack of marketability and control.
  • Representation of individual beneficiary on numerous claims of breach of fiduciary duty against family-member trustees relating to mismanagement of trust assets, including limited liability companies owned in part by family trusts and holding millions of dollars in commercial real estate; included successful defense of counterclaims including attempted invocation of no-contest clause.
  • Representation of individual beneficiaries in pre-litigation claims against individual trustees for excessive trustee compensation in trusts valued at approximately $40 million.
  • Representation of non-profit organization in dispute with estate of deceased benefactor regarding payment of $2 million charitable pledge and estate claims of undue influence.
  • Representation of institutional trustee in trust dispute and litigation regarding the magnitude of discretionary distributions needed to sustain widowed beneficiary in 'the lifestyle to which she had been accustomed' during the life of her husband, the settlor.
  • Representation of individual heir in contesting in her mother's will and mental capacity.
  • Representation of state university in dispute with family members over bequest to the university in decedent's will.
  • Preparation of successful request for private letter ruling to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of institutional and individual co-trustees to address failure make Section 754 election for real-property assets held in family trusts.
  • Representation of individual beneficiary in Italy with regard to interpretation of wills being litigated in Oregon and Italy.