In 2006, a Minnesota businessman, whose company was involved in health care real estate development nationwide for several decades, created a complex estate plan to minimize taxes and maintain flexibility over his assets. The estate plan created a “pour-over” will, a revocable trust, and an irrevocable or family dynasty trust. The core asset of the irrevocable trust was an agreement that granted the trust the first option to purchase any assets held in the revocable trust upon the owner’s death.
The company owner died in 2013; his son, who had succeeded him as CEO, died in 2016.
The plaintiffs, a group of individuals, challenged the estate plans, seeking $45 million in damages and operating control of the defendants’ LLC and related entities in the assisted living, commercial and residential real estate industries valued at more than $300 million.
The trial team consisted of Todd Wind, Joe Cassioppi, and Emily Unger from Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Joe Anthony and Dan Hall from Anthony Ostlund Baer and Louwagie P.A., and Justin Jenkins, then of Winthrop & Weinstine P.A. and now with BC Davenport. The team was successful in defending the estate plans of the two entrepreneurs through four years of litigation and a 20-day trial during July, August and November 2019 and January 2020.
Lead attorneys Todd Wind and Joe Anthony handled the opening and closing arguments.
On April 27, 2020, the District Court entered an order dismissing all claims for damages and equitable relief. The trial outcome ensures the continued operation of the firm by the management team they hired, and the continuation of the charitable foundation established under the estate plans.
The ruling by District Judge Edward T. Wahl “was a complete verdict in favor of the defendants,” Wind said. “The judge simply followed the law and found that trustees do not have duties with respect to assets that are not in the trust, and that someone who is still alive has the ability to do with his or her assets as they wish.”
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.
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