Complex Marital, Trust, & Estate
Clients turn to Susman Godfrey to fight for them in some of the largest trust, estate, and marital property disputes on record when the stakes are high, or the legal issues are complex. The firm has achieved great results and recoveries for our clients in these cases using our skillsets as trial lawyers, rather than a legal-area specialist. We approach each case with creativity and a driving focus on developing a case that will persuade a judge and jury, because that is what achieves great results, whether they arrive before or after trial.
- McCourt v. McCourt. Defended Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner, Frank McCourt, over claims brought by his ex-wife, Jamie McCourt, to set aside a property settlement agreement impacting a $2.15 billion sale of the team. Ms. McCourt argued that her ex-husband misled her with regards to the team’s value by inducing her to agree to receive a tax-free fixed payment of $131 million upon the dissolution of their marriage. In a ruling subsequently upheld on appeal, the Court found that Ms. McCourt had full knowledge of the potential value of the Dodgers at the time she made the property settlement agreement and that Mr. McCourt had disclosed all of the material information he had regarding the team’s value. Read more.
- In re Stewart. Represented eldest son, Sean Stewart, who was excluded from his father Tom Stewart’s billion-dollar estate. Rather than rely on a cookie-cutter complaint, our team improvised with fresh ingredients and alleged a new claim which had never before been recognized in any Arizona court. We prevailed against a motion to dismiss and persuaded the Court to recognize a brand-new tort in Arizona—tortious interference with inheritance. Shortly after this trailblazing order, the case settled favorably for our client.
- In re Preston. Represented Preston Marshall (then married to Anna Nicole Smith), grandson of the late J. Howard Marshall II, in a multi-jurisdictional dispute against his mother Elaine Marshall and older brother Pierce Marshall, Jr. regarding the family business, his father’s will, and several trusts. Elaine and Pierce, Jr. attempted to deny our client his inheritance in contravention of the express wishes of his father and grandfather. Susman Godfrey obtained a preliminary injunction preventing Elaine Marshall from her continued breaches of fiduciary duty, and a year later, obtained summary judgment that Mrs. Marshall’s attempt to siphon away trust assets by grossly overpaying unqualified co-trustees constituted a violation of the controlling trust documents.
- SEC v. Wyly. Served as lead counsel to Dallas-based entrepreneur and businessman Samuel Wyly and the estate of his brother, Charles Wyly, in a high-profile lawsuit brought by the Securities Exchange Commission in the Southern District of New York. Based on the monetary remedies sought, this remains one of the largest SEC cases ever filed.
- In re Longoria. Represented Shelby Longoria in a long-running family dispute in Texas probate court relating to the multi-million-dollar estates of his mother and father. Susman Godfrey guided the dispute to a very favorable settlement for our client.
- In re Cotter. Invalidated a trust amendment involving the Cotter Family Trust, proving that the amendment was the product of undue influence and insufficient capacity.
- Confidential Will Contest Litigation. Hired by a widow to defend a multi-million dollar will contest that was filed by the deceased husband’s children. After taking key depositions, winning several rulings before the Dallas Probate Court, and devising a strategy to prove the deceased had the proper mental capacity to execute his will, Susman Godfrey was able to position the case for a favorable confidential settlement before trial.
- Confidential Will Language Interpretation Litigation. Challenged a provision of one of the largest trusts in the country on behalf of several heirs, that calculated the amount each heir was to receive. In a ground-breaking lawsuit filed in Ohio state court that challenged decade-old precedent, Susman Godfrey formulated a strategy to challenge the language of an almost 100-year old trust by arguing that the trust should reflect the intent of the author rather than its plain meaning. The case settled favorably after depositions and several key hearings.