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Estate and Trust Litigation WHEN IT COUNTS

Barnes & Thornburg probate litigators advocate the rights and interests of trustees, executors, other fiduciaries and individuals in trial and appellate courts throughout the United States. We have handled complex will and trust contests, substantial claims in estates, objections to accountings, contested guardianships, the full range of probate and trust disputes.

We also represent clients in a variety of alternative dispute resolution procedings, including negotiation, arbitration and mediation, which are often particularly appropriate in disputes involving family wealth transfers or closely-held business assets.

The wide range of experience and legal practice among the firm's estate and trust lawyers and litigators enables us to properly staff each case in view of its size and complexity. We have developed systems for the early evaluation of cases, case management, and budgeting that enable us to conduct litigation in a focused manner designed to achieve our clients' objectives.

  • A Barnes & Thornburg attorney defended a law firm against suit alleging malpractice in the preparation of testamentary trust. On behalf of our client, the firm obtained Supreme Court approval of probate reformation of erroneous language in deceased testator's trust. The Supreme Court approval avoided significant potential tax liability for decedent's heirs and successfully minimized trust beneficiaries' legal malpractice action against client lawyer who drafted trust. Carlson v. Sweeney, Dabagia, Donoghue, Thorne, Janes & Pagos, No. 46S05-0801-CV-27 (Ind. 2008).
  • A Barnes & Thornburg attorney represented a will beneficiary in physician/patient privilege dispute. On behalf of client, Mr. McDermott obtained reversal of the trial court’s refusal to produce medical records of deceased in will contest pursuant to the physician/patient privilege contained in R.C. § 2317.02. The Court of Appeals held that when the executor filed the application to probate the decedent’s will the executor waived his privilege to assert the physician/patient privilege for the decedent. Janes v Janes, 2001 WK 704456, Ohio App. 5th Dist. (This matter occurred prior to the attorney joining Barnes & Thornburg LLP.)
  • A Barnes & Thornburg attorney represented the personal representative of an estate against the estate’s primary beneficiary, who claimed the personal representative had charged too much for his services. The Probate court found in favor of the client and awarded the majority of the fees charged. The firm also defended the award on appeal, and appellate court affirmed the probate court award to client.
  • Barnes & Thornburg attorneys represented parties to probate action. On opponent's appeal of trial court’s grant of guardianship petition, the court affirmed decision in favor of our clients. Hickman v. Hickman (In re Hickman), No. 53A01-0211-CV-446 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004).
  • Barnes & Thornburg defended the Trustee against two foundations that were beneficiaries of the charitable remainder trusts to Ruth Lilly’s billion-dollar-plus estate. Plaintiffs claimed more than $100 million in damages, alleging that the Trustee had failed to diversify assets quickly enough. The Court of Appeals affirmed the probate court’s summary judgment in favor of the Trustee. Americans for the Arts v. Ruth Lilly Charitable Remainder Trust Nos. 1 and 2, 855 N.E. 2d 592 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006).
  • Barnes & Thornburg represented 1st Source Bank as personal representative in a Supreme Court of Indiana case affirming the trial court’s decision that the decedent’s will was properly admitted to probate, which had been reversed by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court held that the method of will execution used in the case was valid. This is the leading Indiana case on the requirements for valid will execution. Estate of Dellinger v. 1st Source Bank, 793 N.E.2d 1041 (Ind. 2003).
  • Barnes & Thornburg represented the Trustee in a breach of trust action brought by Indiana guardians of a minor beneficiary of the Trust seeking an order that required an accounting and removing the Trustee. Although the settlor was an Indiana resident and the Trust was funded through the settlor’s estate in Indiana, the settlor knew that Trustee was a Virginia resident and, after funding, the Trust assets were always maintained by the Trustee in Virginia. The probate court granted the Trustee’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, holding on an issue of first impression in Indiana that the Indiana courts did not have jurisdiction over the Trust that was administered and maintained in Virginia. In re Alford Trust, 897 N.E.2d 946 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008).



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