Bob Sacks Leads Successful Resolution of Four Trust and Estate Disputes
In March 2019, partner Bob Sacks went to trial on behalf of a client involved in a Trust interpretation dispute. Based upon the client’s testimony, the Court ruled in his favor on the interpretation issue, ending an acrimonious dispute over the terms of the Trust.
In April 2019, in two separate mediations, the firm’s clients were able to resolve their trust matters. The first lawsuit, handled by Bob and associate Tristan Bufete, concerned clients who were the children of the deceased Trustor and were involved in a dispute with the Trustor’s surviving spouse over the terms of a Trust for that spouse. Although that Trust provided for $1.5 million to be used to build a residence for the spouse’s lifetime use and for her other benefits, through settlement she received $762,500 from that Trust, with the remainder going to the Firm’s clients. The second matter involved a client who was left $500,000 under his father’s Trust, and claimed he was due more under a 50-year-old divorce settlement. Bob and associate Arevik Stepanyan litigated this case, which involved a host of interesting legal and factual issues, and was settled at mediation with the client receiving $2 million.
In May 2019, Bob headed a trial team with partner Ryan Houck and Arevik Stepanyan, representing a number of heirs of a probate Estate. The Decedent died with no estate plan, and some ten siblings or their issue were his heirs. The firm’s clients constituted less than 50% of the heirs, and the remaining heirs included a former Administrator of the Estate, whom those other heirs also supported.
After one day of trial in 2015 on the Administrator’s removal, she resigned and a neutral Administrator came in. Litigation by the heirs represented by Sacks, Glazier and by the new Administrator (represented by Alan Gutman of Gutman Law) against the former Administrator and others, moved forward slowly toward trial. The parties agreed to use the trial judge as a settlement judge and began a two-week trial by having a lengthy settlement conference. Although the former Administrator and her cronies had insisted for years that the heirs represented by the firm had no claims with any merit, they paid those heirs some $1.8 million in settlement. (Because the underlying claims, if successful at trial, would result in a surcharge award payable to the entire Estate, given the above heirs’ less than 50% interest in the Estate, the settlement was equivalent to an approximately $3.7 million surcharge award at trial.)
In addition, a claim by several people that they should be treated as heirs of the Estate was settled with no payment by the firm’s clients, and they also settled a substantial claim for fees by one law firm that had represented the former Administrator. A second law firm that also represented that Administrator rejected $121,000 to settle a large fee claim, demanding a settlement payment of $142,000. That claim went to trial, and during the first day, the trial judge recommended that the law firm explore settlement options. Under a settlement, the law firm agreed to pay $135,000 to the Estate. Accordingly, the firm’s clients and the Successor Administrator’s positions in this lengthy litigation were vindicated through the ultimate settlements.