Trusts & Estates

The personal legal services attorneys at Clark Hill handle our trusts and estates practice. Estate planning is more than drafting trusts and wills and handling estates - we counsel you (and your family) and present practical plans and suggestions for the preservation and the tax-sensitive distribution of your assets to your beneficiaries. We have extensive experience with the complex tax and probate laws which apply to your situation and take pride in our ability to explain practical and understandable solutions for your individual situation. We are sensitive to the specialized needs of seniors, and those who are unable to handle his or her affairs because of immaturity or incapacity. When disputes arise, we act as mediators and arbitrators, or when necessary, we aggressively litigate and advocate your position through the trial and appellate courts. We always keep in mind that in family situations, a solution reached among the parties outside the courts is often the best long-term solution. We are experienced estate planners, tax planners and trial attorneys. Members of our group are well respected in both the public and private sector, and we are often consulted by and hired by other attorneys for our expertise. Collectively we have over 200 years of experience at what we do.

The Estate Planning Process

Estate planning is a very personal process and an important part of planning for the future for you as well as your family. We are sensitive to the emotional aspects of estate planning and are confident our methods and explanations will make the entire estate planning experience satisfying.

Estate planning commences with an initial discussion of your estate planning objectives and a confidential analysis of present and future assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Detailed consideration is then given to family considerations as well as to tax and probate ramifications; we also include a calculation of estimated federal estate taxes, state estate and inheritance taxes, gift taxes and income tax consequences.

After our analysis and discussion, we present a proposed estate plan including drafts of various estate planning documents. These documents typically include a Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Patient Advocate (for health care decisions) and Medical Record Authorization forms to comply with Federal privacy rules. The plan may also include additional documents depending upon your circumstances and objectives such as an irrevocable life insurance trust, or other specialized techniques discussed below. Our goal is to help you achieve your objectives for the preservation and distribution of assets to your family while minimizing taxes and other administrative expenses (probate). To assist you in commencing the estate planning process, an Estate Planning Information Questionnaires is available for your use:

Estate Planning Information Questionnaire

Understandable Estate Planning Documents

We draft our wills, trust agreements, durable powers of attorney, designations of patient advocate and other estate planning documents so they are understandable to you yet effective in implementing the personal planning and tax strategies in your estate plan. We are often asked to provide speakers at statewide legal education seminars on the topic of how to draft clear, concise estate planning documents.


Eric Dorkin, MacKenzie Hyde and Ray Koenig obtained a significant victory in the 1st District Appellate Court. In a case of first impression, the Illinois Appellate Court granted Clark Hill’s emergency appeal in favor of Nina L., a minor seeking to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to stay in the United States following her 18th birthday.  The trial court had denied Nina L.’s request for the judicial findings necessary for her to apply to remain in the United States after being abandoned by her natural parents.  The trial court held that it was not proper for it to enter findings pursuant to federal statute.  The Appellate Court reversed and entered the required findings itself on an emergency basis so that Nina L. could timely file the required documents with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as her 18th birthday was just days away.  

As reported in the local legal press, “This is a case that really mattered,” said Dorkin, who represented Nina L. “If the case was decided the other way, she was going back to Taiwan with no known family or connections and just a high school degree, and I think that’s a recipe for lifelong disaster.”

Estate of Donald Howell v. Donald Brenard Howell, 2015 IL App (1st) 133247 and 1140810 (cons.)

The Raymond W. Pontarelli Trust, et al. v. Michael Pontarelli, et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 133138

In re Estate of Leonard Koenen, 2014 IL App (1st) 140080-U

In re Guardianship of Florence Pontarelli, 2014 IL App (1st) 122782-U

Represented client in formation of a Family LLC to leverage discounts available to pass family wealth to second and more remote generations while minimizing estate and gift taxes

Represented multiple clients in “second home planning” for properties on Lake Michigan and inland lakes in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois

Represented high net worth clients in the negotiation and implementation of pre-nuptial agreements

Represented client in three-way commercial closing in excess of $7 million dollars 

Represented executor in negotiation and approval of a multi-million dollar wrongful-death settlement, including a partial sealing of the court file in order to secure settlement confidentiality requirement

Representing the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and the American Red Cross in separate will and trust contests in Oakland County Probate Court

Successfully representing Comerica Bank in a complex will and trust contest in the Wayne County Probate Court

Obtaining a favorable settlement on behalf of two beneficiaries of a substantial family trust against Standard Federal Bank and one of the largest Michigan law firms in a case involving breach of the prudent investor rule and breach of fiduciary duties in the management of a hedge fund which stuffed its gain to the trust

Creation of special needs trusts.
Represented financial institutions in Orphans Court matters involving trustee's alleged breach of fiduciary duty
Counseling of high net worth families regarding issues associated with multi-generational wealth transfers.
Clark Hill PLC Receives National and Regional Tier 1 Rankings in the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers, “Best Law Firms”Clark Hill Attorneys Named to DBusiness Magazine's 2018 Top Lawyers ListSixty-Six Clark Hill Attorneys Named 2017 Michigan Super Lawyers & Rising StarsSeventy-Four Clark Hill Attorneys Selected for Inclusion in the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers in America Clark Hill Attorney Nicholas E. Papasifakis Published in Spring 2017 Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal Clark Hill Attorneys Mallory A. Kallabat and Nicholas E. Papasifakis to Present at Walled Lake Consolidated Schools Staff Financial Fair on May 10, 2017Clark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present at ICLE 60th Annual Estate Planning Short Course in May 2017Clark Hill Attorneys Ray J. Koenig III and Ryan M. Holmes to Present at DuPage County Estate Planning Council Meeting on April 12, 2017Clark Hill Attorney Chris S. Hopkins Selected into the Chicago Bar Association Leadership InstituteClark Hill Announces Attorneys Elected to Membership, Promotions to Senior AttorneySeventeen Clark Hill Attorneys Named to the 2017 Illinois Super Lawyers & Rising Stars List Clark Hill PLC Receives National Rankings in the 2017 Edition of U.S. News-Best Lawyers, “Best Law Firms”Twenty-Eight Clark Hill Attorneys Named to DBusiness Magazine's 2017 Top Lawyers ListClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Speak on “Disabled Persons: Planning for and Implementation of Special Needs Trusts & Guardianship” at the Fall Chicago Estate Planning Council Luncheon Clark Hill Attorneys Paul Magy, James Waggoner, Anne-Marie Vercruysse Welch, and Mallory Kallabat to Present a Legal Update at BOMA Brown Bag Series Seminar September 13, 2016Sixty Clark Hill Attorneys Named 2016 Michigan Super Lawyers & Rising Stars Clark Hill Attorney Ryan M. Holmes to Present at Michigan Association of CPAs Small Firm Practitioners Conference August 19, 2016 Clark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III Received the Vernita Gray Lifetime Achievement AwardTwenty-Six Clark Hill Attorneys Named to Pennsylvania Super Lawyers & Rising Stars 2016 ListClark Hill Attorney Ryan M. Holmes Named to Bounce Emerging Leaders BoardClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III Co-Authored the Guardianship Litigation Chapter in IICLE’s 2016 Edition of the “Litigation Disputed Estates, Trusts, Guardianships and Charitable Bequests.” Clark Hill Attorney Thomas E. F. Fabbri Spoke on Panel for State Bar of Michigan Young Tax Lawyers Committee on March 22, 2016Clark Hill Attorneys Ray J. Koenig III and MacKenzie A. Hyde Presented “Dealing with Behavioral Disorders Exhibited by Clients and Beneficiaries” for the Greater North Shore Estate & Financial Planning Council Sixty-Six Clark Hill Attorneys Selected for the 2015 Super Lawyers Business EditionTwenty-Eight Clark Hill Attorneys Named to DBusiness Magazine's 2016 Top Lawyers ListClark Hill PLC Receives National Tier 1 Ranking for Litigation – Construction in the 2016 Edition of U.S. News-Best Lawyers, “Best Law Firms”Sixty-Five Clark Hill Attorneys Named to Michigan Super Lawyers 2015 ListClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III Quoted in Windy City Times About Recent Supreme Court Decision on Same Sex Couples and Their Families Clark Hill PLC Receives National and Metropolitan Tier 1 Rankings in the 2016 Edition of Best Lawyers in America's “Best Law Firms”Sixty-Two Clark Hill Attorneys Selected for Inclusion in the 2016 Edition of Best Lawyers in AmericaClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present at Citywide Pride Event “To Have & To Hold” Same Sex Marriage after Obergefell v. Hodges July 28, 2015 in Chicago, ILClark Hill Attorneys Ray J. Koenig III, MacKenzie A. Hyde and Eric Dorkin to Present at the IICLE® Powers of Attorney and Guardianship SeminarRayndon Law Group Joins Clark Hill PLC Phoenix Personal Legal Services Attorney Tim J. Emmitt Joins Clark Hill Chicago Chicago Attorney Ryan M. Holmes Published in ExpertBeacon on Tax and Estate IssuesClark Hill PLC Continues to Grow as Five New Additions Join the Chicago TeamClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present on the Financial and Estate Planning Ramifications of Marriage EqualityClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present at the 57th Annual IICLE® Estate Planning Short CourseChicago Attorney Ryan M. Holmes Joins Clark HillClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present on Estate Planning and Charitable Giving to Michigan State University Alumni– May 8 & 9Clark Hill Attorneys Ray J. Koenig III and MacKenzie A. Hyde to Present at the National Business Institute “Resolving Estate, Will and Trust Contests” Seminar – Feb. 25Clark Hill Attorney Abbie Shindler to present The “New Normal of Estate Planning” at the Country Club at DC Ranch – Dec. 13Clark Hill PLC Attorney Thomas F. Sweeney Named Chair Elect of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of MichiganClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig III to Present on the Confident Modern Family: Strategies for LGBTQ Individuals, Couples and FamiliesClark Hill Chicago Attorneys Ray J. Koenig III and Leslie Gutierrez Published a Chapter in Litigating Disputed Estates, Trusts, Guardianships, and Charitable Bequests 2012 EditionClark Hill Attorney Ray J. Koenig to Present to Chicago Bar Association on “Successful Estate Planning In & Out of Court”Clark Hill Attorney Thomas F. Sweeney to be Panelist at “Cross-border Tax Issues and Planning Opportunities” SeminarAttorney Thomas F. Sweeney Elected to Second term on Probate and Estate Planning Council
Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 5) - Year End 2017Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 4) - August/September 2017"Wrongful Death Claims: An Overview for Probate Attorneys" by Nicolas E. Papasifakis for the Spring 2017 Michigan Probate & Estate Planning JournalInsight on Estate Planning (vol. 3) - June/July 2017Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 2) - April/May 2017Darra Rayndon Quoted in "Americans Are Dying With an Average of $62K of Debt,", March 2017"A Guide for Challenging a Joint Account Arrangement" by Thomas Fabbri, Mallory Kallabat, Jonathan Martone, and Nicholas Papasifakis for JD Supra, March 2017Relationships & the Law Today "Newly Enacted Responsibilities of a Guardian Making Personal Decisions for a Disabled Person in Illinois" - February 15, 2017Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 1) - February/March 2017Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 6) - Year End 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 5) - October/November 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 4) - August/September 2016Michelle Margolies Tran Quoted in Kiplinger: A Better Way to Leave Behind Your IRA - July 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 3) - June/July 2016Relationships & the Law Today "Estate Planning 101: The Must Haves" - May 18, 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 2) - April/May 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 1) - February/March 2016Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 6) - Year End 2015Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 5) - October/November 2015The Importance of Estate PlanningInsight on Estate Planning (vol. 4) - August/September 2015What Every Estate Planner Should Know About Undue Influence: Recognizing It, Insulating/Planning Against It…. And Litigating It - Bloomberg BNA Tax Management Memorandum - July 2015Confronting Undue Influence in your Practice? Industry experts weigh in on how to take an increasingly pervasive issue - Trusts & Estates; The Wealth Journal - July 2015Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 3) - June/July 2015Leaving an Inheritance: Published by The Office of Gift Planning: The University of Chicago Spring 2015 EditionInsight on Estate Planning (vol. 2) - April/May 2015Insight on Estate Planning (vol. 1) - February/March 2015Defending Your Principals: Suing Agents Under the Revised Illinois Power of Attorney Act By Ray Koenig & MacKenzie Hyde in Illinois Bar JournalInside the Minds - Trusts and Probate Litigation By Ray Koenig in Inside the Minds – Published by Aspatore Books Couples Planning and the New Civil Liberties Act By Ray Koenig & MacKenzie Hyde in Windy City TimesMI Statutory Will FormMI Child Care Power of AttorneyProbable Cause Exception to the Enforcement of Will and Trust In Terrorem Clauses: Determining the Factors in Applying the Exception and Considering Opportunities for an Early Determination of Whether the Exception Has Been Satisfied - January 2013Trusts and Probate Litigation: Leading Lawyers on Managing Client Expectations, Handling Complex Cases, and Navigating Recent Legal DevelopmentsEstate-Planning, Other Implications of the Civil Union LawHow Civil Union Law Would Work: Illinois Senate Vote Seals the Deal on Historic Legislation, Which Now Goes to the Governor
Estate Planning in 2016 — What Is Trending?, with Darra Rayndon by the Legal Broadcast NetworkEstate Planning Tips Everyone Should Know, Darra Rayndon Explains By The Legal Broadcast Network