Overview

Susan helps clients transfer their wealth in meaningful, tax efficient ways.

Her practice focuses on estate and gift tax planning, trust and estate administration, charitable planning, and fiduciary counsel. Her clients include wealthy individuals and families, family business owners, corporate executives, banks and trust companies, trustees and executors and private foundations.

Susan is a fellow, regent, and former Illinois state chair of the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel (ACTEC), the leading national association for trust and estate lawyers. She was the Reporter of the Uniform Trust Decanting Act, which is now being enacted in several states. She has also been active in Illinois trust law legislation.

A recognized industry thought leader, Susan has written extensively on trust and estate law topics with more than 30 published articles and two books. She has lectured to professional groups around the country, such as the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (University of Miami), ACTEC, the Notre Dame Trust & Estate Planning Institute, ALI-ABA, the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the American Bankers Association.

Susan has garnered many accolades for her work, including recognition as a 2017 National Law Journal Divorce, Trusts & Estates Trailblazer, a leading lawyer in Private Wealth by Chambers, and “best in wealth management” by Euromoney Legal Media Group in 2013. She also received the 2013 Austin Fleming Award from the Chicago Estate Planning Council for achievement in estate planning practices, among other awards.

She started her private law career after clerking for the Hon. Richard D. Cudahy, United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

  • Experience

    • Served as the Reporter for the Uniform Trust Decanting Act, which was drafted to create rules for nonjudicial modification of irrevocable trusts that carefully balance the interests of various parties and permit the parties to reasonably rely on prior modifications.
    • Co-chairs a committee of the Chicago Bar Association to introduce a new Trust Code in Illinois, which involves several years of work to draft the approximately 200-page bill. This legislation will be a major advance in Illinois trust law.
    • Developed and implemented wealth transfer plan from a $50 million trust likely to terminate in the next decade to dynasty trusts that can last indefinitely.
    • Restructured $200 million estate plan for clients with significant business that included transitioning assets to multigenerational group of owners with differing needs, liquidity for payment of estate taxes, and business succession planning.
    • Created $10 million donor advised funds, which included negotiating and drafting a special agreement with the custodian to protect against unilateral policy changes, and to ensure that multiple family members and future generations could serve as charitable advisors in an orchestrated manner.
    • Created innovative plan for $150 million estate, which included extensive modification of existing irrevocable trusts through decanting, restructuring of insurance program to provide liquidity for estate taxes, succession planning for company, and transition of control to next generation.
  • Credentials

    Education

    • University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1985, magna cum laude
      Order of the Coif
    • Grinnell College, B.A., 1982, with honors
      Phi Beta Kappa

    Bar Admissions

    • Illinois
      • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

          Clerkships

          • Honorable Richard D. Cudahy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (1985–1986)

          Professional Memberships

          • American College of Trust & Estate Counsel (ACTEC), Regent, Fellow, and Former Illinois State Chair
          • Illinois State Bar Association, Trusts & Estates Section Council, Member
          • Chicago Bar Association, Trust Law Committee, Member and Past Chair; Probate Practice Committee, Member
          • Chicago Estate Planning Council, Member
          • American Bar Association, Member

          Professional Certifications

          • Basic program certificate for four-year great Western books program, University of Chicago (1991)

          Teaching Appointments

          • University of Michigan Law School, Lecturer (Winter 2009)
          • University of Michigan Law School, Visiting Professor (1996)
        • Insights

          TITLE
          News Release

          61 Schiff Attorneys Named to 2019 Best Lawyers in America List and Six Recognized as “Lawyer of the Year”

          Schiff Hardin is pleased to announce that 61 attorneys have been included in the 2019 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, as well as six who were named a “Lawyer of the Year” in their respective areas of practice.

          News Release

          Schiff Hardin Attorneys Recognized as “Leaders in Their Field” in 2018 Chambers High Net Worth

          Schiff Hardin is pleased to announce that six attorneys were recognized as “Leaders in Their Field” in the 2018 edition of Chambers High Net Worth, a legal industry ranking focused on the private wealth market.

          News Release

          95 Schiff Hardin Lawyers Named to 2018 Leading Lawyers Lists

          Ninety-six Schiff Hardin lawyers have been named to the 2018 Leading Lawyers lists for Illinois and Michigan.

          Event

          Trust Administration in Illinois

          Chicago Estate Planning Council: 2018 Basics Course

          Location:
          Chicago, Ill.
          News Release

          40 Attorneys Named to 2018 Illinois Super Lawyers, Rising Stars, and Top Women Lists

          Forty Schiff Hardin attorneys have been recognized on the 2018 Illinois Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists.

          Event

          Decanting of Irrevocable Trusts

          Estate Planning Council of Greater Joliet November Meeting

          Location:
          Lockport, Ill.
          Alert

          Summaries of State Decanting Statutes

          Decanting is a technique that permits a trustee to make certain modifications to an irrevocable trust. While a few states permit decanting under the common law, about half of the states have adopted decanting statutes.

          News Release

          Chambers High Net Worth 2017 Recognizes Two Schiff Hardin Attorneys

          Schiff Hardin is pleased to announce that two attorneys were recognized in the 2017 edition of Chambers High Net Worth guide, a leading legal industry ranking.

          News Release

          Schiff Hardin Lawyers Named to 2018 The Best Lawyers in America

          Schiff Hardin is pleased to announce that five attorneys have been named a “Lawyer of the Year” in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©.

          Other Publications

          • “Estate Planning Forms and Commentary: Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives, Premarital Agreements, and Guardianships,” (co-author) Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2016)
          • “Amendments to the Illinois Virtual Representation Statute" (included as “Survey of Illinois Law: Trusts and Estates”), Southern Illinois University Law Journal (Summer 2015/Vol. 39, Issue 4)
          • “Saving for Education: Creating Educational Dynasty Trusts Using 529 Plans," ACTEC Journal (Fall/Winter 2014)
          • “Summaries of State Decanting Statutes," National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC) Journal of Estate and Tax Planning (Second Quarter 2014)
          • “Decanting: Refining a Vintage Trust," National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC) Journal of Estate and Tax Planning (First Quarter 2014)
          • “Decanting: Refining a Vintage Trust" (Section III of "Survey of Illinois Law: Trusts and Estates"), Southern Illinois University Law Journal (Summer 2014/Vol. 38)
          • “Trusts & Trustees Act Modernized: Decanting and Directed Trusts," Illinois Bar Journal (Nov. 2012)
          • Education Planning and Gifts to Minors, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (revised 2009)
          • Co-author, Illinois Estate Planning: Forms and Commentary, 2nd Ed., Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2005) - the first edition of which received an "Award of Outstanding Achievement" by the Association of Continuing Legal Education in July 1998
          • “Avoiding Section 529 Plan Pitfalls," Private Wealth (Nov. 2010)
          • “Virtual Representation in Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution: Opportunities and Risks," (co-author) ALI-ABA Estate Planning Course Materials Journal (Oct. 2010)
          • “Ethical Wills: Preserving a Legacy," (co-author) ABA Trust & Investments (May/Jun. 2010)
          • “State Statutes on Virtual Representation – A New State Survey," (co-author) ACTEC Journal (Spring 2010)
          • “New Law Promotes Private Trust-Administration Agreements," (co-author) Illinois Bar Journal (Nov. 2009/Vol. 97, #11)
          • “The Best of Both Worlds: Using a Trust to Make Your 529 Savings Accounts Rock," ACTEC Journal (Winter 2008)
          • “Human Issues in Estate Planning for the Family Business Owner" (co-author) ALI-ABA Estate Planning Course Materials Journal (Aug. 2008/Vol. 14, No. 4)
          • “Ten Tax Smart Tips for College Savings Planning," Morningstar Advisor magazine (Summer 2008)
          • “Code Section 529 College Savings Accounts: More Than a Decade Without Final Rules," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (2008)
          • “529 Savings Plans Are Threatened," Trusts & Estates magazine (Feb. 2008)
          • “New Push-Pull into 529 Plans," Trusts & Estates magazine (Aug. 2006)
          • “Marital Deduction Planning After Decoupling," ABA Trust & Investments (May/Jun. 2005)
          • “This Is Me Leaving You – Illinois ‘Breaks Up’ with the Fed," Illinois Bar Journal (Jan. 2004)

          Speeches & Presentations

          • “Trust Administration in Illinois,” Chicago Estate Planning Council: 2018 Basics Course, Chicago, Ill. (Jan. 31, 2018)
          • “Decanting of Irrevocable Trusts,” Estate Planning Council of Greater Joliet November Meeting, Lockport, Ill. (Nov. 16, 2017)
          • “How the Election Made Decanting Even More Important,” ALI CLE’s Planning Techniques for Large Estates, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Apr. 21, 2017)
          • “What You Can Learn From the UTDA Even If Your State Doesn’t Have Decanting,” Tulsa Estate Planning Forum, Tulsa, Okla. (Nov. 14, 2016)
          • “Decanting:  Best Practices," Fiduciary Law Institute, St. Simons Island, Ga. (Jul. 15, 2016)
          • “Decanting: Best Practices," ALI-CLE Estate Planning for Large Estates, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Apr. 29, 2016)
          • “Experts in Estate Planning: Leaving an Education Legacy," Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), Plymouth, Mich. (Nov. 17, 2015)
          • “Uncorking the Uniform Trust Decanting Act:  What Decanting States, Prohibition States and Teetotalers Can Learn," panel at ACTEC 2015 Fall Meeting, Monterey, Calif. (Oct. 16, 2015)
          • “The Middle Way: The Uniform Trust Decanting Act," ABA Joint Fall Meeting of RPTE' s Income and Transfer Tax Planning Group & Tax's Estate and Gift Tax Committee, Chicago, Ill. (Sep. 18, 2015)
          • “Decanting:  Refining a Vintage Trust," 44th Annual Estate Planning Council of Portland, Portland, Ore. (Jan. 30, 2015)
          • “ULC Draft Decanting Act," National Conference of Lawyers and Corporate Fiduciaries, Telephone seminar (Dec. 4, 2014)
          • “Saving for Education: Creating Educational Dynasty Trusts Using 529 Plans," 40th Annual Notre Dame Tax and Estate Planning Institute, South Bend, Ind. (Nov. 14, 2014)
          • “Decanting:  Refining a Vintage Trust," National Association of Estate Planners & Counsels (NAEPC), San Antonio, Texas (Nov. 6, 2014)
          • “Decanting: Refining a Vintage Trust," 36th Annual Duke University Estate Planning Conference, Durham, N.C. (Oct. 16, 2014)
          • “Legal Education and Uniform Laws," (with David English and Turney Berry), "Professor's Corner," ABA Real Property Trust and Estate Law Section, Webinar (Sep.10, 2014)
          • “Decanting," National Conference of Lawyers and Corporate Fiduciaries (NCLCF), Chicago, Ill. (Jun. 6, 2014)
          • “Decanting:  Refining a Vintage Trust," IL CPA Society, Chicago, Ill. (May 20, 2014)
          • “Decanting:  Refining a Vintage Trust," Lunch-and-Learn presentation at John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Ill. (Mar. 26, 2014)
          • “Decanting:  State Law Survey and Federal Tax Issues" (with Diana S. C. Zeydel), ABA, Webinar (Feb. 4, 2014)
          • “Estate & Gift Tax Planning Opportunities for 2014 and Beyond" (with moderator Steve Akers and co-panelist Clary Redd) American College of Trust and Estate Counsel/ American Law Institute (ACTEC/ ALI), Teleconference Series (Dec. 11, 2013)
          • “Decanting:   Refining a Vintage Trust," Estate Planning Council of Seattle and the Washington State Bar Association, Seattle, Wash. (Oct. 21, 2013)
          • “Decanting: Refining a Vintage Trust," Chicago Estate Planning Council (CEPC), Chicago, Ill. (Sep. 11, 2013)
          • “Decanting: Refining an Old Vintage Trust," Main Plenary Session at Minnesota's 39th Annual Probate & Trust Law Section Conference, Saint Paul, Minn. (Jun. 10, 2013)
          • “Virtual Representation:  Trust Modification by Agreement'' (with Rebecca Wallenfelsz), ISBA Law Ed Studio Presentation, Chicago, Ill. (May 30, 2013)
          • “Decanting and Directed Trusts" (with Farhad Aghdami and M. Patricia Culler), ACTEC 2013 Annual Meeting, Maui, Hawaii (Mar. 7 and 8, 2013)
          • “Educational Planning and 529 Plans," 57th Annual Estate Planning Seminar, Estate Planning Council of Seattle and the Washington State Bar Association, Seattle, Wash. (Nov. 2, 2012)
          • “Illinois Decanting Statute: Refining a Vintage Trust," Illinois State Bar Association Trusts & Estates Section Council, Webcast, "Are You Ready? The New Directed Trusts and Decanting Statutes" (with Mary D. Cascino), Chicago, Ill. (Oct. 9, 2012)
          • “Section 529 College Savings Plans:  A Decade Without Final Regulations," Estate Planning Council of St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo. (Sep. 24, 2012)
          • “No Taxpayer Left Behind:  Tax-Wise Techniques for Funding Education," ALl-ABA, Boston, Mass. (Apr. 23, 2012)
          • “Estate Planning Issues for Same-Sex Couples," The Northern Trust Company Client Event, Chicago, Ill. (Feb. 28, 2012)
          • “Dealing with Disgruntled Beneficiaries and Settling Disputes" (with Roselyn Friedman, Erica E. Lord and Robin D. Maher), CBA Trust Law Committee, Chicago, Ill. (Jan. 9, 2012)
          • “Beyond Trusts - Alternative Wealth Transfer Vehicles," 46th Annual Southern Federal Tax Institute (SFTI), Atlanta, Ga. (Sep. 23, 2011)
          • “Planning in Decoupled States," Illinois CPA Society (ILCPA), Chicago, Ill. (May 18, 2011)
        • Citizenship

          Pro Bono Activities

          • Various leadership positions including president at the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, which provides legal services to victims of domestic abuse

          Civic and Charitable Memberships

          • Roosevelt University, Board of Trustees, Vice Chair
          • Goodman Theatre, Spotlight Advisory Council