Trust Litigation


Ulmer & Berne has experience in a broad range of trust litigation, from the straight-forward to the complex. We have honed our skills representing institutional and individual trustees as well as trust beneficiaries in disputes in federal and state courts and arbitration proceedings.

As a trustee, it is critical that you have counsel experienced in advising you on fiduciary and contractual duties. As a beneficiary, you need counsel who can guide you in interpreting complex, and sometimes arcane, trust documents and their appropriate modern-day analysis. We have a team of seasoned litigators who, with the assistance of our probate, ERISA, and estates practitioners, are well equipped to provide advice and representation in all these areas.

“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 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

  • Defeated a class certification and secured dismissal on motion in lawsuit brought by IRA beneficiaries for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty against IRA trustee; affirmed on appeal.
  • Defending a bank trustee/paying agent in putative class action by holders of German gold bonds issued in the 1920’s and 1930’s on fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and RICO claims relating to validation procedures for bonds.
  • Successfully represented an indenture trustee in a class action brought by disgruntled debenture holders after the indenture terms were changed by vote in conjunction with the merger of the issuer; dismissed on motion.
  • Defeated a class certification and secured dismissal on motion of defendant trust company on claims of participating in Ponzi scheme; affirmed on appeal.
  • Successfully litigated a trust reformation action through trial and appeal for private school beneficiary of $25 million testamentary trust, hotly contested by the residual beneficiary.
  • Represented a Delaware trust company in a fraudulent transfer claim; dismissed on jurisdictional motion.
  • Represented a sister trustee accused by brother trustee of mishandling trust assets; favorably settled for a fraction of the claim.
  • Secured appointment of a successor trustee for inter vivos trust, and successfully resisted court’s order for an accounting.
  • Successfully defended a Delaware trust company in Illinois state court litigation from allegations of failure to prevent transfer of assets by individual trustee.
  • Successfully defended a national bank as trustee in Ohio state court litigation arising from allegations by beneficiaries of failure to diversify trust assets.
  • Successfully defended an arbitration against Ohio corporate trustee on charges of breach of fiduciary duty arising from investment decisions.
  • Successfully defended an indenture trustee in Ohio federal and state court proceedings on allegations of breach of fiduciary duty stemming from fee paid to induce redemption of corporate debentures.
  • Successfully represented a class of over 3000-plus beneficiaries of a $28 million testamentary trust established by the founder of a local company for its employees; settled by agreement with the charitable alternative beneficiary.