A compassionate guide to trust and estate law — and its ‘very human’ challenges
Jennifer Sullivan is called on by clients to handle trust and estate-related disputes and administration — along with multitude of complications that can ensue. The issues she encounters with clients are “very human” ones, she says, typically related to the death or aging of a loved one. Her clients include beneficiaries such as families and individuals (and even friends of the deceased), as well as corporate fiduciaries or charities.
In the wake of a loss or major life change, family members grieve in their own way. Stepping into these moments is delicate, Jennifer explains, because grief manifests differently for each person. As an attorney, Jennifer helps parse out emotions and develop practical solutions for clients. She extends compassion, yet has no difficulty leveling with clients about the often challenging and intensive work that lay before them – and equipping them with the resources and knowledge to get it done.
Deliberate, meticulous, and a skilled communicator, Jennifer works with fiduciaries — typically, family members or close friends — thrust into roles of heavy scrutiny, and walks them through the complex responsibilities attached to the position. In addition, Jennifer administers estates and trusts when a situation calls for direct attorney involvement. She takes seriously the role of “lightening the load” for clients who are newly saddled with obligations they may not fully understand, or cannot manage independently.
“My practice has become a kind of study in ‘what we leave behind,’ whether intentionally or not, and how we corral all those assets and issues and achieve the best outcome for everyone involved,” she says. “It really is my privilege to walk alongside those who are left to negotiate sorrow and legal obstacles at once.”
When disputes arise between family members or beneficiaries and fiduciaries and create battles over property, assets, or care, Jennifer counsels and defends without allowing bitterness to infect the proceedings. “When resolution also means reconciliation, we come away thrilled,” she says. “I am in a position to alleviate some of life’s most overwhelming practical burdens for my clients, and I never want to be guilty of adding to them. Our primary focus is on damage control and mitigating hardship. We know things are hard enough as it is.”
In addition to her primary work, Jennifer has carved out a niche with Richmond-area artists, galleries, and art collectors on legal issues pertaining to visual artwork, including contract creation and review, copyright, image-use permissions, and licensing agreements.
“Richmond has such a visible, accessible art community, and there is an underlying spirit that makes known that our local art is gifted to everyone. Getting involved in the arts through my legal practice allows me to satisfy a creative impulse, even if only tangentially, and to promote that same spirit in some small way,” she says. “It is rewarding to advance artist rights and empower those who might be accustomed to operating on only a handshake and blindly hoping for the best.”
Elder Law and Estate Planning
- Resolving estate and trust administration issues
- Preparing testamentary documents
- Shepherding fiduciaries through the administrative/probate process or serving as fiduciary
- Defending fiduciaries against accusations regarding mismanagement of their role, or challenging fiduciaries in breach of their duties
- Will contests
- Partition of jointly held real estate
- Litigating matters regarding the enforceability and interpretation of wills and trust documents prepared by others
- Representing commercial lenders, businesses, and individuals embroiled in breach of contract battles, landlord-tenant disputes, and administrative actions, primarily home health care agencies combating disgorgement of Medicaid reimbursements in administrative appeals before the Department of Medical Assistance Services
- Assisting creative professionals, community organizations, and gallerists in negotiating, drafting, and supplementing agreements to govern their transactions, including releases and assignments, and licensing, leasing, and vendor agreements
- Selected to the Super Lawyer’s “Rising Stars” Virginia List, Civil Litigation Defense category (2013-2018)
- Virginia Business Magazine’s “Legal Elite”, Taxes/Estates/Trusts/Elder Law category (2017-2019)
- University of Richmond School of Law, J.D., Articles Editor, Richmond Journal of Law and Technology
- Boston University, English and Economics, magna cum laude
- All Virginia courts including the Supreme Court of Virginia
- Virginia State Bar
- Young Lawyers Conference
- Virginia Bar Association
- Young Lawyers Division
- Richmond Bar Association
- Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association
- American Red Cross Richmond Chapter Leadership Development Council – Class of 2010
- St. Andrew’s School, Marketing Committee
- Art180, Development Committee
- Lawyers for the Arts