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January 23, 2019

Client Successes

We’re proud to have been involved in many significant trial and appellate level fiduciary cases in Pennsylvania, including the following:

Alfred John Clegg, Intervivos Trust, (O.C. Phila. 2015)

We successfully argued that a creditor of a beneficiary of a trust may not enforce a judgment against said beneficiary’s interest in the trust if the the trust includes a spendthrift provision and restrictions on the beneficiary’s right to withdraw funds from the trust. Moreover, a beneficiary’s creditor lacks standing to object to an account of the trust since it is not a creditor of the trust.

In Re Edward Winslow Taylor Trusts, (Pa. Super. 2015)

We successfully convinced the Superior Court to reverse the Orphans’ Court and declare that a trust agreement can be modified to include a provision allowing removal and replacement of a corporate trustee (portability).

Trust of Shirley M. Reichardt, Settlor, 886 EDA 2014 (Pa. Super. 2015)

As appellate counsel, we convinced the Superior Court to affirm an Orphans' Court decision regarding lifetime transfers made by the settlor from her revocable trust.

In Re: Foundation For Anglican Christian Tradition, a corporation, No. 2164 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014)

We successfully defended an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and obtained an opinion by the Court, en banc, affirming the dismissal of a donor's petition seeking to impose post-hoc conditions on a gift to our client, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation.

Harriett E. Woodward Trust, No. 1159 EDA 2013 (Pa. Super. 2014)

We successfully represented five prominent Philadelphia charitable beneficiaries at the trial and appellate court levels in a Will interpretation case involving the disposition (“gift over”) of the trust share of a charitable beneficiary that sold its operations and assets to a for-profit organization.

Sherman Estate, 467 EDA 2012 (Pa. Super. 2012) (mem.)

After we successfully convinced the Orphans’ Court to grant nonsuit on claims that a Will was invalid due to purported undue influence and the testator’s lack of capacity, we subsequently successfully opposed the appeal to the Superior Court of the nonsuit decision by the individual contesting the Will.

Martelli Estate, 3 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 15 (O.C. Phila. 2012)

We persuaded the Court to remove two co-fiduciaries of an Estate and Trust where their failure to comply with Court directives, and their inability to cooperate with and hostility directed to the remaining fiduciary, prevented the effective administration of the Estate and Trust.

Edelson Will, 2 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 385 (O.C. Montg. 2012)

We successfully defended a Will challenged upon, among other things, a claim of undue influence where the contestant alleged, and the Court rejected, the premise that because the decedent’s native tongue was Russian but he lived in “an English speaking world,” the decedent was of a weakened intellect.

Trycieki Will, 2 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 269 (O.C. Bucks 2012)

We successfully appealed the denial of probate of a Will and defended that Will from claims that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity and was unduly influenced where the decedent, who earlier had been adjudicated partially incapacitated, possessed intact mental faculties and was not unduly influenced at the time he executed the will.

McFadden Trusts, 2 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 41 (O.C. Phila. 2012)

We successfully defended a corporate trustee of two trusts against a request by a beneficiary, who alleged the corporate trustee breached fiduciary duties, for the Court to surcharge the corporate trustee (and its co-trustees) in excess of $9.5 million following a decrease in the value of the trusts following the September 2008 stock market crisis.

Brown Trust, 1 Fiduc. Rep. 3d 181 (O.C. Montg. 2011), aff’d, 47 A.3d 1245 (Pa. Super. 2012) (table)

We persuaded the Court that an arbitration agreement, which a law firm alleged it and the trustee of a trust entered into and applied to legal fees, was not binding upon the trustee because even if the trustee agreed to arbitration and an award was entered, the Court nevertheless could determine the awarded sum unreasonable and permit the trustee to recover funds from the law firm.

deLone Trust, 30 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 81 (O.C. Montg. 2010), aff’d and remanded, 23 A.3d 597 (Pa. Super. 2010) (table)

We convinced the Court that the ex-wife of a husband whose father created a trust was entitled to a share of the trust because the ex-wife’s interest in the trust vested when she and her husband still were married, and because the ex-wife’s withdrawal of claims to marital property in the divorce action did not extend to the trust assets.

Fina Estate, 30 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 209 (O.C. Phila. 2010)

On behalf of the administrator d.b.n.c.t.a. of an estate, we convinced the Court to surcharge the previous administrator of the estate for assets in excess of $1 million she improperly distributed from the estate, and to direct that beneficiaries of the estate return assets improperly distributed to them by the previous administrator.

Pendergrass Will, 30 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 430 (O.C. Montg. 2010), aff’d on other grounds, 26 A.3d 1151 (Pa. Super. 2011)

We successfully prevented a codicil to a Will from being admitted to probate where the codicil was improperly executed because it was signed by the decedent’s widow as agent for the decedent.

DiStefano Trust, 30 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 1 (O.C. Phila. 2009)

We convinced the Court to temporarily enjoin an individual who was an agent for a principal and the trustee of a trust created by the principal from acting under the power of attorney and trust, respectively, pending the Court determining the validity of such documents.

Haas Trust, 29 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 167 (O.C. Montg. 2009)

We persuaded the Court that the corporate trustee of a trust was not entitled to receive an additional commission of $600,000 upon the termination of the trust where, among other things, the corporate trustee did not perform any extra or unusual services after it negotiated its fee arrangement over five decades before the request, nor were its services in administering the trust substantially different from that initially contemplated.

Pokalsky Trust, 29 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 235 (O.C. Susq. 2008)

We successfully argued that beneficiaries of a trust do not need to be served citations for jurisdiction for each matter regarding the trust at issue when the court has previously exercised jurisdiction on the beneficiaries.

Lewis Elkins Fund, 28 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 279 (O.C. Phila. 2008)

On behalf of charitable beneficiaries of a perpetual testamentary trust, we defended the trust from a request made by its corporate trustee for compensation from principal and income for its service for roughly a five-decade period.

Estate of Flavio Francis Falcone, Deceased, 27 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 421 (O.C. Chester 2007)

We successfully appealed the probate of the photocopy of a holographic Will where the proponents failed to provide clear and convincing evidence by two credible witnesses establishing the execution and contents of the original.

Estate of Sally C. Vanderkraats, Deceased, 27 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 328 (O.C. Chester 2007)

In a case of first impression, we convinced the Court that a gift forfeited pursuant to an in terrorem clause passes, under the circumstances, pursuant to the anti-lapse rule set forth in 20 Pa. C.S.A. § 2514(10) and not the anti-lapse rule set forth in 20 Pa. C.S.A. § 2514(9).

Estate of Marjorie T. McCann, Deceased, 27 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 100 (O.C. Montg. 2007)

Based on the intent expressed in the Will in question, we persuaded the Court to direct that a child’s share of her parent’s estate should be reduced by the balance of an outstanding debt, even though the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy.

Estate of Clinton Miles Robison, Deceased, 26 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 493 (O.C. Phila. 2006)

We successfully argued that a Will clause requiring payment of taxes “out of my estate” lacks the specificity necessary to overcome the statutory tax apportionment scheme.

Estate of Max Kravitz, Deceased (No. 2), 26 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 406 (O.C. Montg. 2006)

We convinced the Court to re-open a 1966 adjudication of the administration of an estate due to the failure of the personal representative to give written notice to residuary beneficiaries and his failure to file a Court-ordered schedule of distribution.

Estate of Norman F. Shelly, Deceased, 27 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 170 (O.C. Franklin 2007), aff'd 950 A.2d 1021 (Pa. Super. 2008), alloc. denied, 962 A.2d 1198 (Pa. Super. 2008)

In prevailing on a motion for summary judgment, we successfully argued that an ostensible Will written on the panel of a cardboard cigarette carton was non-testamentary, as lacking testamentary intent and a positive disposition of assets.

Trust of Ferree, 25 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 243 (O.C. Montg. 2005)

We obtained the dismissal of numerous Objections to a Trustees’ Account, and precluded the beneficiary of a QTIP Marital Trust from introducing parol evidence of Decedent’s alleged intent as to the beneficiary’s “standard of living” given the clear and unambiguous terms of Decedent’s Will.

In Re: Smith, 874 A.2d 131 (Pa. Super. 2005)

We convinced the Superior Court en banc to enforce a compensation provision in a charitable trust, and reverse an Orphans’ Court decision allowing compensation to be increased from 5% of income to 25 basis points.

Estate of Fannie Stafford, Deceased, 25 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 265 (O.C. Phila. 2005)

We successfully challenged the validity of a Will executed by the decedent in the hospital only days before her death as being the product of undue influence.

Estate of Samuel B. Millinghausen, Jr., Deceased, 25 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 1 (O.C. Montg. 2004), aff’d by Memorandum Opinion dated October 13, 2005

We were successful in having a Will contest by a putative intestate heir dismissed on preliminary objections, based upon his lack of standing, as the heir had also been disinherited under an earlier Will.

Estate of Carmen DiCesare, Deceased, 23 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 233 (O.C. Phila. 2003), aff’d, 847 A.2d 700 (Pa. Super. 2004)

We recovered nearly $800,000 at trial, including attorneys’ fees and pre-judgment interest, from a savings bank and two bank employees who unduly influenced a bank customer to designate the employees as beneficiaries upon the customer’s death of an ITF or “in trust for” account, and we successfully defended that trial victory on appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Estate of Vanoni, 798 A.2d 203 (Pa. Super. 2002)

We successfully argued for reversal of an Orphans’ Court decision in a Will contest, where the Will was executed after an adjudication of incapacity. The critical issue in the case was the placement of the burden of proof on the proponent of the Will.

Taylor, Alleged Incapacitated Person, 21 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 205 (O.C. Montg. 2001)

As court-appointed counsel for alleged incapacitated person, we convinced the Orphans’ Court that there are limitations on the ability of the alleged incapacitated to be compelled to testify at his own guardianship hearing.

In Re: Farber, Incompetent

We successfully unraveled a complicated web of self-dealing and real estate transactions to recover nearly $4 million from an attorney who served as the decedent’s guardian, various entities and persons with whom the guardian had done business, and real estate tax claims bureaus.

Del Rossi Will, 15 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 156, 132 Montg. Co. L.R. 100 (O.C. Montg. 1995)

In a dispute over the probate of lost Will, we successfully established that proof of execution of a lost Will may be satisfied by identifying the subscribing witnesses' signatures on a photocopy of the completely executed original Will.