The Holland & Knight Trusts, Estates and Fiduciary Litigation Team represents corporate, institutional and individual clients in disputes related to wills, trusts, estates and fiduciary issues. We also address pre-death disputes, such as issues of capacity, undue influence and financial elder abuse.
Our attorneys represent clients in matters related to breaches of fiduciary duty, including improper asset management, self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and improper administration and distributions, as well as accounting disputes, petitions for court instructions, reformation of instruments and removal of fiduciaries, contests on the grounds of undue influence, lack of capacity, fraud, duress and forgery, and claims involving international succession matters.
Few firms can equal the scope of our practice. Our Trusts, Estates and Fiduciary Litigation Team works in concert with one of the largest Private Wealth Services groups in the United States, with attorneys in offices across the nation who have deep experience in all areas of trusts, estates and taxation. Issues often cover the management of complex assets, such as real estate or family businesses, that are part of an inheritance or trust. Our litigation team also draws on the knowledge of many Holland & Knight practices with national footprints, including real estate, land use, corporate and securities, and labor and employment.
As the U.S. population ages, we increasingly see challenges raised regarding the capacity of donors and fiduciaries, as well as allegations of undue influence and elder abuse. We are experienced in all aspects of these matters, including effectively utilizing expert witnesses and discovery, both of which are often pivotal in helping courts find the clarity needed to resolve these matters fairly.
For example, we defended challenges to the will of a 104-year-old woman who left an estate of $300 million. While distant relatives alleged she was unduly influenced by caregivers and others, we were able to show her state of mind and intentions through meticulous discovery, and we settled the matter on terms consistent with her will.
Trustees and other fiduciaries continue to face litigation by beneficiaries and others who allege breach of fiduciary duty. Over the years, we have represented both fiduciaries and beneficiaries, giving us a broad understanding of how fiduciary disputes emerge and optimal strategies for resolving them.
Often, we find that disputes can be avoided by establishing clear policies and protocols for trust and estate administration, and our attorneys are experienced in advising trustees on how to structure their oversight to adhere to best practices and the law.
When disputes must proceed to litigation, we draw on an experienced team of litigators that has successfully won dismissals and verdicts, or achieved favorable settlements, for matters valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. In most cases, it is not in the best economic interest of either side to engage in protracted litigation, and our attorneys help clients work toward solutions that resolve disputes short of going to trial.
Hundreds of trials have taught us what positions win and lose in court. Our understanding of what influences favorable outcomes in litigation helps us proactively resolve disputes and reduce the risks of lawsuits for clients who consult us in the review and planning processes.
Fiduciaries also retain us to review their best practices and policies to avoid litigation. We measure their practices against our own litigation experience as well as national standards. Attention to the latest case law and best practices, appropriate planning and periodic review are the most effective ways for clients to reduce their exposure to expensive litigation.
Nonprofit organizations named as beneficiaries turn to our lawyers when there are challenges to donors' bequests, breaches of trust in the administration of the trust or estate, or protracted delays in distributions. We ensure that donors' intentions are carried out whether via settlement or in court.
Our goal is to obtain the maximum benefits for nonprofits, and to that end we work to expedite distributions and reduce administrative fees. All types of nonprofits, especially those with significant assets, have relied on Holland & Knight to carry out the intentions of donors. Our clients have included charities in the medical, religious and educational sectors, among others. We pride ourselves on transparency and provide our clients with online access to their working files.
Unfortunately, elderly people with diminished capacity have been and continue to be abused – financially and otherwise – often by caregivers and family members. Our experience in this area and then in securing court protection for film star Mickey Rooney, who was the victim of such abuse, led us to establish an elder abuse pro bono program. The Mickey Rooney Elder Abuse Pro Bono Project helps protect seniors who otherwise could not afford legal services and aids them in reclaiming money and assets they have lost. We also work closely with local legal aid programs and support them in protecting the elderly from abuse. Holland & Knight was honored as "Law Firm of the Year" in 2014 by Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida for our pro bono efforts on behalf of the elderly and veterans.
Our litigators bring the experience of the entire Holland & Knight Private Wealth Services Group to every matter. Chambers USA lauds our Band 2-ranked Wealth Management team's "nationwide reputation" and "impressive geographical coverage." Holland & Knight has a significant number of Fellows of the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel.
Other recent recognition includes:
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