Trusts & Estates Litigation
As a leader in the fields of estate planning, estate administration and fiduciary services, Hemenway & Barnes is uniquely qualified to assist clients with resolving disputes and potential disputes arising out of the interpretation, administration and management of estates and trusts. Our lawyers are highly expert and experienced at resolving difficult probate, trust and fiduciary matters.
Through our work, we have earned the respect of the probate bar and the courts. Our partners are often called upon by judges to serve as court-appointed guardians, conservators and trustees.
Breadth and Depth of Experience and Knowledge
Our attorneys have an average of 20 years of experience in complex probate matters. From the courtroom to alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration, clients seek our counsel in resolving disputes involving:
- Defense and prosecution of claims of breach of fiduciary duty
- Trust modification and interpretation issues
- Estate and inheritance tax disputes
- Will contests
- Claims of undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity
- Petitions for guardianship or conservatorship
- Matters involving family foundations or charitable gifts
We also specialize in petitions for cy pres and reasonable deviation, guardianship petitions, petitions to sell or partition real estate, and similar matters. In addition to representing individuals, our probate litigation group regularly represents corporate fiduciaries and charitable entities with respect to protecting their interests as beneficiaries of trusts and estates.
- Represented the plaintiff-trustees in the Dauman v. Redstone litigation regarding control of the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust.
- Achieved a precedent-setting victory in an estate tax dispute with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue over the value of the decedent’s real estate located outside of Massachusetts. The court declared the Massachusetts estate tax to be unconstitutional as applied to real estate located in Paris, France, and ordered the DOR to refund the estate tax plus interest. Dassori v. Commissioner of Revenue
- Represented a decedent’s estate and defended his last will against a challenge alleging lack of capacity, undue influence and fraud. The Fiduciary Litigation Session and the Appeals Court found that the will was valid and fully expressed the decedent’s last wishes, protecting substantial business and real estate interests for our client.
- Worked with a beneficiary of a private trust to remove a recalcitrant trustee and resolve potential tax and fiduciary issues. We now serve as an ongoing advisor and trustee to the client.
- Obtained a favorable judgment from the Supreme Judicial Court granting a college permission to sell land conveyed in trust under the doctrines of reasonable deviation and cy pres.
- Obtained complete dismissal on statute of limitations grounds of financial claims asserted in Probate Court against an estate.
- Obtained summary judgment in Probate Court for a family group that sought our help in a dispute with another branch of the family over proper distribution of trust assets.
Joseph L. Bierwirth Jr.
Joe Bierwirth is the chair of the Litigation Practice Group at Hemenway & Barnes. He concentrates his practice in the areas of probate, trust, real property, and business litigation.