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January 23, 2019

Practice Areas

We focus on fiduciary litigation and counseling. We pursue, defend, and provide advice on issues involving the standards of care applicable to fiduciaries such as trustees, executors, guardians, charitable organizations, banks, trust companies, partners, attorneys, and officers and directors of corporations. Our fiduciary matters arise in:

Estate and Probate Litigation

Estate litigation includes disputes arising between executors and beneficiaries, and conflicts among heirs and beneficiaries, related to estate administration and/or distribution.

Estate litigation also includes bringing and/or defending estate-related tortious interference with an inheritance and breach of contract claims in state and federal court, and litigation involving life insurance proceeds, joint bank accounts, payable on death accounts and similar non-probate assets.

Estate litigation also consists of actions to recover estate assets from third-parties.

"Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate."

-- Ambrose Bierce

Will Contests

We represent both parties asserting and contesting the validity of a Will in Orphans’ Court trials and in Register of Wills hearings.

Our cases have involved the principal grounds for a will contest in Pennsylvania:

  • that a document lacks the necessary requisites of a “will,”
  • forgery,
  • undue influence, and
  • lack of testamentary capacity.

“Say not you know another entirely till you have divided an inheritance with him.”

-- Johann Kaspar Lavater

Trust Disputes

We represent corporate and individual trustees, and income and remainder beneficiaries, in cases involving trust interpretation, trust reformation, propriety of trust investments, asset allocation, and self-dealing. Trust disputes also can include questions as to the validity of the trust based on allegations of forgery, fraud, undue influence and/or lack of testamentary capacity. Trust litigation also consists of pursuit and defense of surcharge actions and petitions to remove trustees.

“Those who trouble their households will inherit the wind …”

-- Proverbs 11:29

Fee and Commission Litigation

Fee and commission litigation includes questions about the amount and propriety of fees charged to an estate or individual by an attorney for an estate or trust, by an executor or by a trustee. It also involves attempts by trustees to modify or break fee agreements. For example, we successfully defended against a trustee's attempt to break a longstanding fee agreement in a large charitable trust, The W.W. Smith Trust.

“The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client.”

-- Abraham Lincoln

Guardianship/ Incapacitated Person Proceedings

Our guardianship practice includes actions to protect incapacitated persons and their assets through the appointment of a guardian of the estate and/or person. Complex guardianship litigation often arises over the issues of incapacity, the person who should be guardian, and guardians accused of abusing their authority.

Charitable Institution and Non-profit Litigation

The Orphans’ Court has jurisdiction over charitable non-profit litigation, and litigation arises when there are fundamental changes in a charitable or not-for-profit entity, or the charitable purposes cannot be fulfilled ( cy pres and deviation proceedings).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

-- Sir Winston Churchill

Business Litigation

Our commercial or business litigation practice includes disputes between directors and officers, shareholder litigation, and partnership conflicts. Business litigation further includes breach of contract actions, unfair competition claims, and disputes regarding covenants to not compete.

We also have tried real estate disputes, forgery and defalcation claims, Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment Collection Law actions, and conflicts arising from the sale and/or formation of businesses.

“Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.”

-- The Hon. Felix Frankfurter