Practice Area

Trusts and Estates

With one of the top Trusts and Estates groups in New York City, ranked as a Band 1 firm by Chambers High Net Worth, Patterson Belknap advises some of the nation's wealthiest individuals and families. We are a mid-size firm that offers the full range of services of a larger firm delivered with the high-touch client service of a boutique. Leveraging the resources of the firm's other practice areas, we are well positioned to act as "general counsel" for all of our clients' personal legal needs.

Estate Planning & Wealth Preservation

We represent wealthy individuals and families in all aspects of their estate planning, including preparation of wills and trusts and implementation of sophisticated strategies to minimize taxes and protect family assets. We work closely with our clients and their other trusted advisors to identify their objectives and provide creative and practical solutions designed to meet their specific goals. We have considerable experience negotiating and preparing prenuptial agreements, designing estate plans for international clients, and counseling clients on estate planning opportunities that arise in connection with the sale of privately held businesses. 

Our clients include founders and entrepreneurs, Wall Street professionals, principals at venture capital and private equity firms and hedge funds, real estate developers, corporate executives, artists and those who have inherited substantial wealth. The firm's practice groups devoted to art law and tax-exempt organizations make us well-suited to handle clients with substantial art collections or philanthropic goals. 

Estate & Trust Administration

We regularly counsel banks, trust companies and individuals regarding their obligations as executors of estates and trustees of trusts. With a dedicated team consisting of a senior attorney, paralegal, fiduciary accountant and bookkeeper who focus exclusively on administration matters, we are able to handle all aspects of the most complex estates and trusts. Drawing on other resources within the firm, we counsel fiduciaries on legal issues related to real estate, art, businesses, intellectual property, digital assets and other property owned by estates and trusts.

Litigation & Tax Audits

It is difficult to find an experienced trusts and estates attorney with proven litigation skills, or a top-notch litigator with in-depth knowledge of trusts and estates issues. With recognized practice groups in both areas, we are well positioned to handle trusts and estates issues in the courtroom, including high-stakes probate contests, proceedings to remove fiduciaries, construction proceedings, contested accounting proceedings and recovery of estate assets. We counsel our clients and represent them when controversies arise among family members or among owners of closely held businesses.

We also represent individuals and executors in contested gift and estate tax audits, at all stages of the audit process. Our goal is to settle each audit favorably as early in the process as possible, but, when circumstances dictate, our attorneys have the experience to advocate for clients at the level of IRS Appeals or take the matter to trial in U.S. Tax Court.


Recognizing that many of our clients seek to give back, we work with them to establish and administer private foundations and other charitable arrangements, including charitable trusts. We also counsel individuals who plan to make significant or unusual gifts to nonprofit institutions. Many charitable, educational and religious organizations that are beneficiaries under wills and trusts rely on our attorneys as their counsel. Indeed, we have a long history as counsel to some of the nation's leading public charities and private foundations.