Practice Area

Trusts and Estates

With one of the top Trusts and Estates Groups in New York City, ranked #1 by The Best Lawyers in America for six years in a row, Patterson Belknap advises some of the nation's wealthiest individuals and families. Widely recognized as leaders in their field, they sit on the boards of major national not for profit organizations and institutions, lecture extensively and provide cutting edge planning advice to clients. In addition, they serve on major bar association committees, as well as committees that impact both federal and state legislation regarding wealth management. As evidence of their leadership roles, partners in Patterson Belknap's Trusts and Estates Group are consistently recognized by their peers in legal industry publications; three are included in Best Lawyers in America.

When matters necessitate, group attorneys coordinate with firm litigators to handle estate and trust issues in the courtroom, including probate contests, proceedings to remove fiduciaries, construction proceedings and contested accounting proceedings where very substantial sums are at stake as well as control of large closely held corporations. In addition, attorneys in our group have represented many major banks in their capacities as trustee.

Counsel for Every Need

For individuals as well as entire families, we answer complex questions about their business and philanthropic affairs, and handle routine matters such as banking relationships and the selection of investment services.

Because many of our clients own family businesses or control large blocks of stock in privately traded companies, we regularly counsel them on such issues as:

  • retaining a company's private status,
  • providing continuity of management across generations,
  • transferring stock in the company to younger generations,
  • maintaining voting control of a company,
  • drafting shareholders' agreements to define family obligations, and
  • preparing closely held businesses for sale.

When designing estate plans, we look to meet the diverse personal and financial needs of our clients. Our trusts and estates group assists families that include persons with disabilities, addressing their unique tax and financial planning needs. We counsel our clients on the use of trusts and other legal devices to protect family assets.

For the Public Good

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 lead trusts and charitable remainder 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.

Representing Fiduciaries

The administration of clients' estates and the operation of their trusts require skill on the part of executors and trustees. We regularly counsel banks, trust companies and individuals regarding their duties as such fiduciaries. Our partners have also served as directors of trust companies.

Resolving Disputes

Working together with lawyers from our litigation group, we represent individuals and trust companies as executors, trustees or beneficiaries in disputes concerning the validity or operation of wills and trust agreements or when administrative decisions of a fiduciary are challenged in an accounting proceeding. We counsel our clients and represent them when controversies arise among family members or among owners of closely held businesses. We also negotiate and draft pre- and post-nuptial agreements.

Advice Across Borders

Foreign nationals who reside in the United States or have holdings here, as well as U.S. nationals living abroad or with investments in other countries, turn to us because of our global experience. We counsel them concerning investments in the United States and other countries, and assist in creating corporations or trusts as vehicles for these investments. We work with attorneys in many foreign jurisdictions to assist clients in complying with complex multinational tax and other rules, in choosing the most appropriate jurisdictions in which to base their operations, and in creating trusts, corporations and other entities in the U.S. and in other countries. We fashion estate plans for multi-national clients which address their needs and the concerns of their families while minimizing taxes and complying with the laws of multiple countries.