Welcome to our new blog: Around the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Courts

Welcome to Around the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Courts, our new and hopefully insightful blog for both attorneys and individuals interested in fiduciary litigation matters in Pennsylvania.

Most of you presumably know that the Orphans’ Court in any given county handles litigation involving wills, trusts, estates, and guardianships. On a more light-hearted note, the Orphans’ Court judges also oversee Pennsylvania’s adoption process, and I know from speaking with them that many judges find those days among the most satisfying of their careers—presiding over a proceeding that brings a family together rather than one that often tears a family apart after the death of a parent or other loved one. Litigation in the Orphans’ Court falls within a broader category of law known as “fiduciary litigation,” because included among the parties to every Orphans’ Court action are fiduciaries—whether trustees, executors, agents under a power of attorney, guardians, or others who oversee another’s affairs.

I have been a litigator for 21 years, and I devoted the last 7 years of my practice exclusively to fiduciary litigation at Heckscher, Teillon, Terrill & Sager, the Commonwealth’s finest trusts and estates boutique firm, located in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. The tragic death of my dear friend and former law partner, Bill Kane (the “Kane” in “Smith Kane”) on May 29, 2012, led me to return to practice with my good friend Dave Smith. At Smith Kane, I have expanded my practice to again include commercial and bankruptcy litigation, but the vast majority of my practice remains concentrated in fiduciary litigation.

The fascinating world of fiduciary litigation—with its collision of money, death and family—generates new and interesting issues every day. In this blog, Around the Pennsylvania Orphans’ Courts, I will write about some of these issues and share some insights. In many posts, I will discuss recent opinions issued either by Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Judges at the county level (where the real action is, and where judges often have tremendous discretion, thus dissuading appeals ) or by the appellate courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I will analyze cases here in the same way I discuss them with my clients—as simple and logical as I can be. I believe almost every legal issue, regardless of its complexity, can be understood by anyone as long as the story is told correctly. Albert Einstein allegedly once said, “you really do not understand something unless you can clearly explain it to your grandmother,” and I share that sentiment completely.

My blog posts will be brief and will address what I find to be the critical factual and legal issues presented by any given case. I will also throw in my two cents about why the cases I discuss might be relevant to a lawyer or an individual interested or involved in fiduciary litigation.

I hope you find this blog helpful and interesting. If you like what you see, please subscribe (button at top) or revisit to read new posts. If you think someone you know might be interested in some of these issues, share the link with them.