Trust, Estate & Fiduciary Litigation


Why Choose Us

Disputes involving trusts and estates can present special challenges from high financial stakes to difficult family dynamics and complicated legal, procedural, and tax issues. When these conflicts arise, Ulmer’s Trust, Estate & Fiduciary Litigation Practice Group is ready to help guide you through these often personal and emotionally charged issues. Taking a collaborative approach that carefully addresses all aspects of your case, our team provides sound, practical, and creative solutions that help you achieve your best result.

Our team is comprised of our top lawyers in trusts and estates law who regularly counsel clients on high-level estate planning strategies, along with dynamic litigators from our nationally recognized litigation practice who represent clients in precedent-setting matters across the country. While we take a proactive approach to help our clients find extrajudicial and efficient resolutions to these contested matters, our team is prepared to litigate complex trust, estate, probate, and fiduciary issues at all judicial levels.

Who We Assist

Our team represents a wide range of clients including corporate and individual fiduciaries, including trustees, executors, guardians, and agents under powers of attorney; trust and estate beneficiaries; banks and financial institutions; trust companies; charitable entities; and other interested and disinterested parties. We also have special experience defending trustees with respect to trusts holding high value and unique assets.

What We Do

We use our experience in a broad range of trust, estate, and fiduciary litigation to handle contested actions in probate, state, and federal courts as well as in arbitration. Offering the benefits of a full-service firm that is agile, responsive, and results oriented, we handle a variety of complex disputes in this area, including but not limited to:

  • Will and trust contests, including issues such as undue influence, lack of capacity, and fraud
  • Disputes over the construction of wills, trusts, and other donative instruments
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claims and disputes relating to the mishandling of estates or trusts by executors or trustees
  • Actions for removal of fiduciaries, including executors, personal representatives, administrators, trustees, guardians, and agents under powers of attorney
  • Disputes over trustee fees including disgorgement claims
  • Claims of asset mismanagement and actions for concealment
  • Guardianship disputes, including contested competency proceedings, choice of guardian decisions, and guardianship termination

Ulmer & Berne LLP is proud to announce that James A. Goldsmith, Partner and Chair of the firm’s Trusts & Estates Practice Group, will receive the Distinguished Advisor Award from University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. This award honors Goldsmith’s commitment to his clients in aiding their generosity, foresight, and civic vision...

Ulmer & Berne is ranked in 39 categories in the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers highest rankings in 21 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 16 categories. Firms included in the 2016 “Best Law...

“Michael Nathan Ungar | Ulmer & Berne LLP” Cleveland Jewish News January 15, 2015 Perennial Super Lawyer Michael Nathan Ungar considers settlement of a dispute embroiling Case Western University among his most memorable cases of 2014. Read the full article »

Ulmer & Berne LLP is ranked in 40 categories in the 2015 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ highest ranking in 23 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 17 categories. Ulmer & Berne achieved a “Metropolitan Tier...

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been ranked within the top 10 percent of all law firms by The BTI Consulting Group, one of the nation’s leading legal industry research firms, in their recently published 2015 BTI Litigation Outlook report. The firm was selected as a “Litigation Powerhouse” and is named...

Ulmer & Berne LLP was named 2014 Ohio Firm of the Year by Benchmark Litigation at the second annual Benchmark Litigation US Awards held at the Essex Hotel in New York City on January 29, 2014. The US Benchmark Awards were based on a six-month research period involving extensive interviews...

Representative Experience

  • Represented a trustee in connection with numerous business issues relating to the management and operations of real estate entities and manufacturing businesses.
  • Obtained declaratory judgment regarding the interpretation of inadequate trust language in order to allow a fiduciary to properly administer the trust estate as intended by the grantor.
  • Represented a large national bank as trustee in litigation over the term and administration of a trust.
  • Successfully defended an individual trustee against allegations of embezzlement of trust assets.
  • Successfully pursued the return of funds misspent by a fiduciary.
  • Obtained favorable settlements on behalf of corporate fiduciaries defending claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of trust, conversion, and related torts, as well as actions seeking removal of the fiduciary.
  • Successfully represented an executor against a creditor of the estate and prevailed at the Ohio Supreme Court in a precedent-setting case regarding the requirements for the presentation of a claim against a decedent’s estate.
  • Successfully defended a national bank in litigation alleging breach of fiduciary duty and violations of the Ohio Uniform Fiduciary Act and obtained summary judgment on all claims in a decision that was affirmed by the Fifth District Court of Appeals.
  • Successfully prosecuted a trustee action on behalf of beneficiaries wrongfully deprived of proper distributions of trust assets.
  • Represented a national securities firm in defense of claims brought by the trustee of a large trust seeking damages in excess of $20 million. All claims against the defendants were dismissed and after a successful appeal all attorneys’ fees were recovered against the plaintiff.
  • Succeeded in a case before the Ohio Supreme Court that guaranteed the rights of wards under guardianship, which led to counsel being appointed at court expense in review hearings of those who cannot afford their own lawyer.