David L.J.M. Skidmore

Partner | dskidmore@wnj.com | V-Card | Profile PDF Grand RapidsT 616.752.2491F 616.222.24911.866.533.3018 - ext. 2491 David Skidmore’s practice is centered on probate litigation, personal injury claims and real property disputes. He is a zealous advocate, a diligent researcher, a gifted communicator, an honest counselor and a skilled trial attorney. David is a member of the governing council for the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is the chair of the council’s amicus committee. He is a regular speaker at seminars... Read More

David Skidmore’s practice is centered on probate litigation, personal injury claims and real property disputes. He is a zealous advocate, a diligent researcher, a gifted communicator, an honest counselor and a skilled trial attorney. David is a member of the governing council for the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is the chair of the council’s amicus committee. He is a regular speaker at seminars on topics related to trust and estate law and presents annual trust and estate case law updates to the Michigan Bankers Association, the West Michigan Estate Planning Council and other groups. In 2012, he spoke on evidentiary issues to the Probate Judges at the Michigan Supreme Court Judicial Conference. He is a regular contributing author for the Michigan Probate and Estate Planning Journal, Michigan Real Property Review and the American Bar Association’s Probate and Property. David also has authored a legal treatise on the Michigan law of wills.

  • Experience
  • Biography
  • News
  • Publications
  • Leadership
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Video

Experience

Probate Litigation

  • Extensive experience representing individuals and entities in disputed estate, trust, fiduciary, guardianship and conservatorship matters
  • Represented individual and corporate personal representatives, trustees and other fiduciaries, as well as individual and charitable beneficiaries of estates and trusts
  • Often retained in cases involving emotional family disputes and complex legal issues
  • Represented clients in Probate Court proceedings throughout Michigan, as well as in appeals to Circuit Court and/or the Michigan Court of Appeals
  • Challenges to Lifetime Gifts/Transactions: Represented many clients in litigation where it was claimed that a lifetime property conveyance was improperly obtained through mental incapacity, undue influence, fraud or duress:
    • Represented decedent’s four children in a lawsuit to set aside decedent’s deed conveying condo unit to their stepmother; the estate recovered the condo unit
    • Represented decedent’s estate in lawsuit to invalidate decedent’s deed conveying his farm property to one of his five children; the estate recovered the property
    • Represented decedent’s estate to invalidate decedent’s gift of nearly all her property to a neighbor; the estate recovered a substantial portion of the property through a favorable settlement
    • Represented decedent’s estate to recover decedent’s substantial lifetime gifts to her accountant; the estate recovered a substantial portion of the gifted property through a favorable settlement
  • Challenges to Estate-Planning Documents: Represented many clients in litigation where it was claimed that an estate-planning document was improperly obtained through mental incapacity and/or undue influence:
    • Represented decedent’s estate to challenge the validity of decedent’s handwritten will offered by decedent’s neighbor; obtained a favorable settlement
    • Represented decedent’s surviving wife in multi-million-dollar case to set aside decedent’s will codicil and trust amendment; concluded with a favorable settlement
    • Represented decedent’s three daughters who sought to invalidate their stepmother’s will; obtained a favorable settlement
    • Represented decedent’s estate to oppose a will contest brought by decedent’s disinherited daughter; obtained a ruling in favor of the estate without the need for a trial
  • Misappropriation of Trust/Estate Assets: Handled numerous claims of misappropriation of estate or trust assets, including one case that resulted in a jury verdict of $2.3 million against a co-trustee for misappropriating a valuable coin collection, and another case in which a trust beneficiary sued the trustee (her brother) for misappropriating $8 million in trust assets, which resulted in a favorable settlement following appeal
  • Allegations of Breach Of Fiduciary Duty: Represented both fiduciaries and beneficiaries in cases where it was alleged that a fiduciary violated legal duties to the beneficiaries:
    • Represented three sisters who sued the corporate trustee for mistakes in administering their late father’s trust, including making unnecessary payments; following trial, the Probate Court decided that the sisters had proven a breach of fiduciary duty, so the trustee was not allowed to pay attorney fees from trust
    • Represented the co-trustees of a trust to defend against the beneficiaries’ legal challenge of how the co-trustees funded the beneficiaries’ trust shares; obtained a favorable settlement
    • Represented three brothers in an effort to force their aunt/trustee to distribute real property that the brothers were entitled to; the brothers got the property
    • Represented decedent’s son who was sued for mismanaging his mother’s finances while serving as agent under durable power of attorney over an extended period; favorable settlement obtained during trial
    • Represented an individual serving as trustee of his late father’s trust, who was accused of misconduct by his sister, a trust beneficiary; the trustee was exonerated of all charges and the sister was ordered to pay the trustee’s attorney fees
  • Interpretation, Reformation and Modification: Regularly retained in cases where a party seeks to have the Probate Court interpret an ambiguous testamentary instrument, reform a trust agreement based on a mistake or modify a trust agreement based on unanticipated circumstances
  • Removal of Personal Representative or Trustee: Extensive experience bringing and defending petitions to remove a personal representative, trustee or other fiduciary:
    • Represented an elderly woman who did not want a particular daughter to serve as her conservator and guardian; successfully persuaded the Probate Court to appoint someone else
    • Represented a large group of siblings to petition for removal of their sister from her roles as patient advocate for the mother and guardian for a developmentally disabled sister; following trial, the Probate Court removed the sister from both roles
    • Represented a woman in a petition for removal of her aunt as personal representative of her grandfather’s estate, due to the aunt’s delay in administering the estate; following a hearing, the Probate Court removed the aunt and appointed someone else

Real Property Litigation

  • Substantial experience representing clients in real property disputes and litigation
  • Represented property owners in lawsuits involving claims of adverse possession and boundary line disputes, including a case that went to trial in Lake County and resulted in a judgment for the property owner
  • Represented condo owners and condo associations in disputes related to the development and administration of condo projects
  • Represented property owners in access easement disputes
  • Represented the trustee of a family cottage trust in litigation concerning use of the cottage and responsibility for payment of cottage expenses
  • Represented both landlords and tenants in eviction proceedings, including a case in Oceana County that resulted in a favorable jury verdict for the client
  • Represented banks and mortgagees in both judicial foreclosure actions and priority disputes with construction lien claimants
  • Represented a property owner in an action to abate a noise nuisance
  • Represented tenants in common in actions seeking to partition or sell joint real property
  • Represented developers in numerous actions to amend or vacate a plat in connection with urban redevelopment
  • Represented property owners and claimants in quiet title actions and chain of title disputes
  • Represented insureds under title insurance policies with respect to coverage claims
  • Represented a title insurance company with respect to coverage decisions on claims raised by numerous construction lien claimants on a development project
  • Represented property owners in lawsuits involving water-related (riparian) property rights, including a case that went to trial in Kent County where a permanent injunction was obtained
  • Represented property owners on zoning and land use matters, including defense of a zoning violation lawsuit that went to trial in Muskegon County

Industries

Practices

Education

  • Cannon Trust School 2010, 2007
  • University of Michigan J.D. 1998 (1995 Recipient, Clarence Darrow Scholar Award; 1998 Recipient, Rockwell T. Gust Oral Advocacy Award)
  • Michigan State University B.A. 1992 high honors (Phi Beta Kappa)

Admitted

  • 1998, Michigan

Courts

  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan in 1998
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan in 1999

Honors and Awards

  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Named to Michigan Super Lawyers 2013
  • Named by Michigan Super Lawyers magazine as a 2008 Rising Star

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
    Member, Probate and Fiduciary Litigation Committee
  • State Bar of Michigan
    Member, Probate and Estate Planning Council (2012-Present) (Chair, Amicus Curiae Committee); Character & Fitness Committee (2005-07; 2011-14); Member, Real Property Law Section
  • Grand Rapids Bar Association

Publications

Blog Posts

Professional Affiliations

  • American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
    Fellow (2013-Present)
  • American Inns of Court (Gerald R. Ford Chapter)
    Member (2013-Present)
  • Western Michigan Estate Planning Council
    Director (2013-Present)
  • Kent County Circuit Court
    Case Evaluator

Community Affiliations

  • Broadway Grand Rapids
    Member, Board of Directors (2013-Present)
  • Widowed Persons Service Board of Directors
    Member (2011-Present); Secretary (2012); Chairperson (2013-14)
  • Hillman Advocacy Program
    Member, Steering Committee (2010-13)
  • Leadership Grand Rapids
    Class of 2010
  • Central High School, Grand Rapids Public Schools
    Established Mock Trial Class and Team; Volunteer Coach; Mock Trial Team (2006-07)
  • Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
    Board of Directors (2006-08); Vice President (2007-08); Cast Member, Peter Pan (2010)
  • Member, Calvary Church

Speaking Engagements

  • Speaker, “Trust & Estate Case Law Update," Midwest Trust & Wealth Management Conference (Michigan Bankers Association), October 10, 2013
  • Speaker, "The Probate Process from Start to Finish," Institute for Paralegal Education seminar, May 21, 2013
  • “Managing Your Practice,” panel discussion, Institute for Continuing Legal Education’s 53rd Annual Probate and Estate Planning Institute, Acme, Michigan, May 10, 2013
  • Speaker, “Drafting Durable Powers of Attorney: Best Practices,” Webcast by Institute for Continuing Legal Education, released April 30, 2013
  • Speaker, "New Probate and Trust Law Cases," Midwest Trust & Wealth Management Conference, October 11, 2012
  • Speaker, “The Admissibility of Extrinsic Evidence in Will or Trust Proceedings,” Michigan Supreme Court 2012 Judicial Conference, September 2012
  • Presented "2010 Trust and Estate Case Law Update" to Chemical Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Huntington National Bank, Northeastern Michigan Estate Planning Council and Western Michigan Estate Planning Council
  • Presented "2009 Trust and Estate Case Law Update" to Chemical Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Grand Rapids Bar Probate Section, Huntington National Bank, Founders Bank & Trust, Legacy Trust, Plante & Moran and West Michigan Estate Planning Council  
  • Speaker, "Overcoming Common Challenges in Trust Administration and Dealing with Common Litigation Issues," National Business Institute Trust Administration Seminar, April 2010
  • Speaker, "Avoiding the Icebergs of Trust Administration," Fifth Third Bank Trust Officers Conference, February 2008
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