Counseling Fiduciaries and Beneficiaries

Overview

A fiduciary’s role in administering trusts and estates has become increasingly complicated. Addressing the needs and rights of beneficiaries against the backdrop of ever-changing federal or state laws can be challenging. Our lawyers, located across the country, have the experience and technical skill to guide corporate and individual fiduciaries in:

  • Properly carrying out the terms of a trust or will.
  • Utilizing different state laws to achieve desired administrative objectives.
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest and claims for breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Managing beneficiary relationships to avoid litigation.

Our fiduciary clients are increasingly interested in the flexibility provided by different state laws, including the ability to: alter certain terms of irrevocable trusts, change the state situs of a trust, settle disputes without the need for court proceedings, and separate the investment and distribution functions of a trustee. We take a creative approach by using these new state laws to assist fiduciaries and beneficiaries to most effectively administer trusts.

Tax Matters

The income, estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax issues involved in trust and estate administration require the highest level of tax experience. In many situations, our role is to provide the necessary technical advice to maximize long-term tax benefits to beneficiaries. We are often involved in designing and implementing tax efficient trust construction and reformation proceedings. In many cases, this can be achieved only by obtaining private rulings from the Internal Revenue Service. When disputes arise with federal and state taxing authorities, including audits, appeals, and court cases, our clients benefit from our nationally recognized tax controversy practice.

Dispute Resolution

We are routinely engaged by corporate and individual fiduciaries to assure they are fully discharging their responsibilities to beneficiaries. Often, concerns can be addressed through clear communication and innovative use of tax laws; however, issues must be resolved through negotiations and court proceedings. When necessary, we combine our experience in fiduciary matters with the litigation skills of our colleagues in defense of the fiduciary’s interest.

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Business Assets Held In Trust

Because we have worked for decades with family business owners, we offer fiduciaries practical insights into the expectations and potential conflicts they may face when responsible for a family business trust relationship. Our advice to fiduciaries involves an examination of alternative approaches with respect to their obligations for closely-held business property. When a fiduciary is also a family member, we are able to provide objective counsel to them as trustees or executors so that they can remain as independent as possible for legal, ethical, and family reasons.

Working with Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries rely upon our advice to better understand and protect their legal rights, arising under the terms of a trust agreement or will, or under state law. Often, a beneficiary’s interest is subject to fiduciary discretion and we are called on to assist in interpreting the scope of that discretion. In many cases, a trust or estate has multiple beneficiaries whose interests may conflict and disputes may arise among the beneficiaries. We are able to establish realistic expectations in a given situation and to work creatively on behalf of beneficiaries to achieve their individual goals.

Professionals

Name Title Office Email
Partner Washington, D.C.
Associate Denver
Counsel Cleveland
Partner Columbus
Partner Washington, D.C.
Partner Cleveland
Counsel Cleveland
Counsel Cleveland
Staff Attorney Washington, D.C.
Associate Denver
Partner Columbus
Partner Cleveland
Partner Washington, D.C.
Partner New York
Partner Cleveland
Associate New York
Partner Denver

Recognition

  • “Best Law Firms” 2014: National Tier 1 Ranking in the area of Trusts & Estates Law from U.S. News – Best Lawyers®.
    • Regional Tier 1 rankings were earned in Trusts & Estates Law in Cleveland, Colorado, Columbus, and Washington, DC.
  • The Best Lawyers in America© 2014: Twelve partners were selected by their peers for inclusion in various private wealth-related fields.
  • Recognized as one of the top law firms for client service, BakerHostetler was named to the 2019 BTI Client Service 30 for the fifth consecutive year.

Publications

Blog

In The Blogs

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WealthDirector
The Three Most Important Provisions for S Corporations Under PATH Act
January 21, 2016
It has become a tradition that at the end of each year, Congress passes legislation to extend previous legislation. In late 2015, Congress passed Public Law 114-113, which contains the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (“PATH”)...
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WealthDirector
New Basis Reporting Requirements (and Penalties) for Decedents’ Estates
January 4, 2016
On July 31, President Obama signed into law the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act (the “Act”) to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund’s spending authority for another three months. To offset the...
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WealthDirector
Donors and Charities Benefit Under New Tax Legislation
December 31, 2015
While most provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) do not automatically expire, there are dozens that do. Included among the expiring provisions have been several intended to enhance charitable giving. Each has been hostage to the...
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WealthDirector
Use of a Limited Liability Company for Charitable Purposes
December 21, 2015
On December 1, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter to his newborn daughter, Max, and shared it with the world (on Facebook, of course). The letter announced the commitment of Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to improve the world in...
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WealthDirector
Family Trust Company Legislation Passes Ohio House
December 16, 2015
On December 9, 2015, House Bill 229 was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 84-8. The bill, which was almost two years in the making, allows an Ohio family to establish its own trust company to serve as trustee for its...
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