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Trust & Estate Litigation

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OVERVIEW

Stoll Keenon Ogden’s Trust & Estate Litigation practice has extensive experience representing clients in will and trust contests, reformation suits, challenges to and defenses of inter vivos gifts, accounting actions, the management and operation of trust properties, and charitable and exempt organization litigation.

We also represent fiduciaries entrusted with the management of estates or trusts when actions by the fiduciary have been challenged by parties, including settlors and beneficiaries. Such disputes can involve a challenge to the investments made by the fiduciary and the management of assets, including positions taken on taxation matters.

Our attorneys regularly appear in court to litigate issues related to testamentary capacity, undue influence and fraud. We have successfully challenged the execution of wills on behalf of family members and defended the validity of wills challenged by heirs or beneficiaries.

SKO recognizes that litigation over trust and estate matters can be emotionally draining, and our attorneys stand ready to employ mediation or other means of alternative dispute resolution when appropriate.

Benchmark Litigation Kentucky State Firm of the Year 2018

Work Highlights

Summary Judgment and Attorneys’ Fees – Breach of Fiduciary Duty Defense

Richard Kerns, et al. v. First Bankers Trust Co., et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Case No. 3:15CV-00212. Lead counsel in successful defense of trust company facing allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and grounds for removal of trustee in an action brought by remainder beneficiaries.  After two years of discovery and oral argument on dispositive motions, summary judgment was granted to Mark’s client.  Prior to the parties briefing whether the trustee should be awarded attorneys’ fees, the plaintiffs agreed to pay Mark’s client 90% of the attorneys’ fees incurred through the litigation.

Successful Recovery Against Family’s Personal Trustee in Breach of Fiduciary Duty Case

After two beneficiaries suspected wrongdoing by their brother-trustee, SKO pursued claims on behalf of the two beneficiaries, including misappropriation and conversion. After investigating the actions of the brother-trustee, SKO negotiated a settlement on behalf of its clients to receive over three times the amount they were set to receive under the testamentary documents.

Successful Estate Recovery for Non-Profit Organization

Lead counsel in lawsuit involving dispute over gift to non-profit organization from a decedent’s estate. SKO successfully negotiated a settlement for its non-profit client that resulted in the client receiving nearly the entire gifted amount.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

James D. Duff v. David A. Duff et al., Case No. 04-345-USF (E.D. Ky.)

Obtained summary judgment on behalf of executor/trustee in a breach of fiduciary lawsuit by beneficiaries of an estate/trust where the ownership of a coal company was at issue.

Estate Litigation

After a 2 ½ week trial in the Bourbon Circuit Court in 2013, obtained a favorable jury verdict setting aside an estate plan on the basis of undue influence and unsound mind and awarding damages exceeding $550,000 for misappropriation of Trust funds.

Related Practices: Trust & Estate Litigation

Abuse of Power of Attorney & Joint Account

SKO successfully represented a trust company appointed as conservator for an individual diagnosed with dementia who had millions of dollars taken from him by his attorney-in-fact (power of attorney) who also fraudulently created joint survivorship accounts. The individual also generated a will in his favor. SKO successfully voided the will and recovered more than $16 million in assets.

Renunciation of a Will

We successfully defended the renunciation of a will related to an estate involving more than $25 million in assets. In litigation spanning several years, SKO’s client ultimately prevailed at the trial court level and was upheld on appeal.

Probate of Holographic Will

Successfully settled a case on behalf of beneficiaries to a holographic will for a $4.5 million estate where the probate court had originally declined to admit the will to probate.

Reversal of Jury Verdict

SKO was retained after an estate suffered a jury verdict of $3.5 million based on alleged testamentary promises. SKO successfully obtained a complete reversal of the verdict in approximately six months.

Defense of Nonprofit as Beneficiary

Represented a charitable organization in defending a will contest in a multimillion dollar estate where the charitable organization was the primary beneficiary. After aggressively defending the action, SKO obtained a favorable settlement that involved dozens of contesting family members.

Kentucky Supreme Court Ruling & Selling of Interest

Successfully obtained a ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court that enforced an oral contract between a beneficiary and the estate requiring the beneficiary to sell his interest with the estate’s interest in a bank.

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