Practice Group | Bassford Remele

Trust and Estate Litigation

For more than 25 years, we have been helping families, individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations handle conflicts over trusts, wills, and estates. We have represented clients in matters ranging from simple disputes involving a will, trust, or estate, to some of Minnesota’s most high-profile trust and estate cases. Our extensive experience enables us to navigate the law as well as the complex personal and emotional dynamics that can make these cases especially difficult.

In every case, we put our significant experience to work for our clients — from helping beneficiaries remove a trustee, to handling suits challenging the validity of a trust or will, to managing the most complex litigation. Some of our recent successes include defending a major trust company accused of violating its fiduciary duties, helping a beneficiary of a family estate obtain proper management for that estate, and handling a billion-dollar trust mismanagement claim spanning three states.

Representative Cases

Representing an iconic singer-songwriter and former advisor, who also acted as an advisor to the special administrator of the singer-songwriter’s estate, in connection with a dispute over music rights.

Represented at trial and before Supreme Court trustee’s opposition to multi-million dollar claims by the personal representative of decedent’s estate, resulting in a significant and precedential decision. In Re Pamela Andreas Stisser Grantor Trust Under the Second Amendment and Restatement of Trust Agreement Dated June 6, 2001, No. A10-1646 (Minn. 2012).

Defended a large bank in its capacity as a corporate trustee against claims of breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, and a claim for surcharge in a 10-week bench trial, resulting in a favorable outcome for our client.

Represented estate beneficiaries in a claim for undue influence in soliciting a new will that created a multi-million dollar foundation.

Represented a trust company, obtaining summary judgment in a claim by a beneficiary alleging breach of duty with respect to trust distributions. The case set standards in Minnesota for determining trustee abuse of discretion. In re: Trs. A & B Created Under the Last Will & Testament of Divine, 672 N.W.2d 912 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004).

Represented the Williams family, the family that started the Creamette Pasta Company, in a surcharge claim against a trust company, which resulted in a multi-million judgment in favor of the family’s trust as a result of the corporate trustee’s failure to diversify trust assets. In re: Will of Williams, 631 N.W.2d 398 (Minn. Ct. App. 2001).

Defended a trust company in a billion-dollar claim that involved litigation in Minnesota, Oregon, and California, involving allegations of mismanagement of timberland held in trust, resulting in a 40-day trial and a successful outcome for our client. In re: Hill Trust, 499 N.W.2d 475 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993).

Represented trust beneficiaries to determine the rights of adopted children and grandchildren. Toombs v. Daniels, 361 N.W.2d 801 (Minn. 1985).

Successfully negotiated major settlement in favor of disputed trust beneficiaries involving a $60 million North Dakota Trust involving land and mining rights.

Successfully represented trust beneficiary in a suit to remove existing trustee and appoint a new corporate trustee.

Successfully defended corporate trustee in suit by beneficiaries to remove the trustee and seeking monetary damages.

Obtained successful decision in a court trial in favor of clients who contested several trust iterations on the basis of undue influence resulting in the shift of more than $2 million in assets.

Successfully tried case to terminate a trust on behalf of surviving grandchild by petitioning that a claimed measuring life for the trust was ambiguous and violated the Rule Against Perpetuities and was therefore invalid. (Ramsey Cty. 2015).

Obtained summary judgment in favor of client contesting a will and antenuptial agreement.

Represented, and tried to conclusion, charitable beneficiary’s claims against trustee during which it was discovered the trustee committed fraud and breaches of fiduciary duties leading to damage awards, liens and seizure of assets on behalf of the charitable beneficiary. (Scott Cty. 2022).

Tried matter contesting validity of a will due to a claim of lack of capacity. (Henn. Cty. 2011).

Tried estate dispute over distribution of business assets and the payment of attorney fees. (Dakota Cty. 2007).

Tried and handled appeal of reformation of will matter due to mistake of drafter pertaining to the terms “children” and “descendants” and obtained reformation. (Minn. Ct. App. June 8, 2015).

Obtained a jury defense verdict representing trustees accused of breach of fiduciary duties while simultaneously obtaining a judgment against the plaintiff for civil theft of and misappropriation of estate funds.

Obtained multimillion-dollar settlement for plaintiff in fraud, civil theft, and tortious interference claims involving diversion of investment accounts and real estate.

Won significant verdict in favor of clients who contested estate planning documents on the basis of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity.

Negotiated favorable settlements for plaintiffs in a breach of fiduciary duty matter against a trustee in Florida.

Responded to appeal of trustees who were found to have breached their fiduciary duties to charitable beneficiaries. In re Estate of Neuman, 819 N.W.2d 211 (Minn. Ct. App. 2012).

Represented senior bond holder in a bond trust dispute with junior bond holders. (Minn. Ct. App. 2024).

Represented charitable beneficiary asserting trustee breached his fiduciary duties in failing to timely pay bequest to charitable beneficiary.

Represented relatives of vulnerable adult in obtaining a temporary conservatorship and litigating against caregiver/new spouse for permanent conservatorship. After vulnerable adult died, litigated against spouse on the validity of new will and trust.

Represented successor corporate trustee in administering contested trust and successfully defended successor corporate trustees decisions and administration at trial. (Dakota Cty. 2021).

Represented successor corporate trustee in administering contested trusts while beneficiaries and former trustee litigated disputes. (Henn. Cty.)

Represented corporate trustee in contested proceeding on determining who were appropriate beneficiaries of the trust and denying beneficiary’s claims for attorneys’ fees from the trust.

Represented personal representatives and trustees in rejecting a preliminary injunction and overturning a temporary restraining order against them to administer estates and revocable trusts. Also represented personal representatives and trustees in action to remove them.

Obtained court order establishing clients as qualified beneficiaries of a trust and entitled to accounts and other documents even though trustee planned to exercise a testamentary power of appointment in the future. (Wash. Cty. 2018).

Represented judgment creditor against personal representative of decedent/creditor’s estate and the trustee of decedent/creditor’s revocable trust.

Litigated matter involving the establishment of a constructive trust over real property deeded to one sister by donor for the disputed benefit of three sisters. (Henn. Cty. 2010).

Negotiated significant and favorable settlements for plaintiffs in two separate disputes involving prenuptial agreements involving payment of trust assets.

Obtained summary judgment in favor of trustee in case involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duties.

Obtained a favorable settlement for clients contesting the validity of a will and trust.

Comments from clients and the legal community:

I have been working with Bassford Remele for many years, on several different matters and on both sides of the table. I appreciate the professionalism, expertise and excellent service each attorney continually provides. (Executive Vice President-Trust, Bank)


Bassford Remele is awesome! They understand complex issues and move them quickly towards resolution. (Senior Vice President, Bank)


Everyone that I have had the opportunity to work with at Bassford Remele has been extremely professional. They have been able to answer all of my questions promptly and with a thorough understanding of the issues. I have enjoyed working with all of the attorneys that I have worked with and find it very rewarding. I always come away with some additional insights and understanding.


Bassford Remele is a very professional firm.


Bassford Remele is very responsive and great to work with or reach out to for questions, even when exploring litigation.


The team is extremely helpful and professional. I have reached out to them on more than one occasion when necessary to assist me in a particular situation. (Vice President and Senior Trust Officer, Trust Company)


Casey Marshall of Bassford Remele is patient, understanding and efficient in his work.


I have worked with Bassford Remele for many years. They are the "go to" firm for trust litigation matters in this area. In addition to their expertise they are very much problem solvers in the way they work with clients and opposing counsel. (Senior Vice President, Bank and Trust Company)


It is never an easy situation when a trust matter escalates to litigation; but it is extremely helpful to have a professional firm and group of attorneys like Bassford Remele representing us. Working through all of the steps necessary to come to a positive resolution can be very demanding. They work with all of the individuals involved to discuss and understand all of the issues and nuances; prepare everyone for deposition and finally testimony in court. It is very easy to assume that you as an individual are under fire and they provide the necessary balance to work through the process. They will work to keep any potential litigation out of the courtroom and prevent any unnecessary costs associated with any type of controversy. I have found them to be a fantastic resource and sounding board for any and all types of questions. (Vice President, Bank and Trust Company)


It is difficult to compare Bassford Remele's depth of experience in their trusts & estates department with any other firm. The attorneys are incredibly knowledgeable and professional. I highly recommend working with the team at Bassford.


I was involved in a very lengthy trust and estate Litigation (approximately three years long), with Bassford Remele and specifically two amazing attorneys representing us, Alan Silver and Steve Sitek. From beginning to end, choosing this law firm, most importantly the two attorneys that represented us in this extremely difficult and involved Trust and Estate Litigation, was by far not only the best legal related decision I have ever made, but also one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. From top to bottom, all the amazing individuals working at this law firm, most specifically our attorneys Alan Silver and Steve Sitek, were not only extremely good at what they do which is truly an "understatement", but Alan and Steve always genuinely cared about us as clients both professionally and on a personal level, and they put an unparalleled amount of effort into our case, as if it was there own.


Norman Abramson and Casey Marshall are my go-to resource for trust and estate litigation.


Bassford Remele is always first to mind when it comes to trusts and estates issues. The team is incredibly knowledgeable and are true advocates for clients.


Bassford is an awesome firm! They are super responsive/knowledgeable and always put their clients first.


These comments were collected as part of the U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" research process.

  1. Helping Clients Manage Trust and Estate Disputes, Twin Cities Estate Planning Council, September 2023 (Casey Marshall)
  2. Disclaimers and Privilege, The Estate Planning, Probate & Trust Law 50, September 2023 (Casey Marshall)
  3. Ethics: Representing Clients with Diminished Capacity, Probate, Trusts and Estates Section Conference, Minnesota Continuing Legal Education, July 2023 (Kiralyn Locke)
  4. Damages, Damages, Damages: Understanding the Possible Outcomes in Probate Litigation, Minnesota State Bar Association, Probate, Trusts and Estates Law Section Conference, June 2023 (Casey Marshall and Jessica Kometz)
  5. Recent Developments in Trust Law of Interest to Litigators, Minnesota State Bar Association, Probate, Trusts and Estates Law Section Conference, June 2023 (Alan Silver)

To Be or Not to Be: Your Client's Trustee, Attorney at Law Magazine, March 2024 (Casey Marshall and Kiralyn Locke)

In Rem v. In Personam Trust Proceedings: The Implications of Swanson v. Wolf, Minnesota State Bar Association Probate, Trusts, and Estates Section, November 2023 (Casey Marshall)

Assessing Capacity: A Requirement that Extends Beyond Estate Planners, Attorney at Law, October 2023 (Steve Sitek and Kiralyn Locke)

Notes & Trends - Probate and Trust Law, monthly column author, Bench & Bar of Minnesota, 2023-present (Jessica Kometz)

50-State Damages Fiduciary Remedy and Damages Survey, contributing author, ACTEC Fiduciary Litigation Committee, March 2018 (Casey Marshall)

Trusts and Conflict of Laws Problems, co-author, Bogert's The Law of Trusts and Trustees, Ch. 16, 2014 (Norman Abramson)

Accolades

2024 Best Lawyers Trust and Estates
2024 Metropolitan Tier 1 Firm in the area of Trust and Estates
Best Lawyers 2022 Litigation-ERISA
Metropolitan and National Litigation-ERISA Firm
Chambers 2023 Rank
Ranked in Chambers 2023
2024 Best Lawyers AOY Alan Silver Trusts and Estates 2016
Alan Silver 2024 and 2016 Minneapolis Trusts and Estates Litigation Lawyer of the Year