Presented by the Wealth Planning, Administration, and Fiduciary Disputes Group

November 2, 2023

Robins Kaplan LLP
800 LaSalle Ave
Suite 2800
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Annual CLE Event Presented by the Wealth Planning, Administration, and Fiduciary Disputes Group

Denise S. Rahne


Co-Chair, Wealth Planning, Administration, and Fiduciary Disputes Group

Inconceivable! Fiduciary Circumstances That You Never Imagined (But Maybe Should)

Professionals who work with clients in the fiduciary space have amassed stories and experiences that were unimaginable in the earliest stages of their careers—leading to the common remark that "you can't make this stuff up.” Katie Engelhart, our keynote speaker, a contributing writer to the NY Times Magazine whose piece “A Story of Dementia: The Mother Who Changed” was featured as the NY Times Magazine’s cover story. Embedded in these stories and experiences are difficult judgment calls, lessons learned, and opportunities for important reflection on what it means to be a fiduciary in a world full of the unknown, unexpected, and misunderstood.

Program Details:

Opening Remarks

Ethics CLE I Capacity Conundrums and Faulty Fiduciaries 

Tom Simmons
University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law

Attorneys who handle trust-and-estate matters or fiduciary-duty cases have numerous ethical considerations that they must be prepared to face. Among the challenges are representing a client with diminished capacity—or where the client’s capacity is even being questioned—which can create precarious pitfalls for the unwary. Diminished capacity can call into question an attorney’s authority to act on the client’s behalf and can cause conflicts between the attorney’s ethical duties of loyalty and confidentiality. Because of this, it is of the upmost importance that lawyers understand how to evaluate capacity and navigate the challenges that this issue presents.

In addition, individual fiduciaries too often fail to grasp their core duties, and it is up to attorneys and other advisors to counsel them on what is expected of them. For instance, when a fiduciary is wearing multiple hats such as also being a beneficiary or having an officer or director role in a business that is in trust, how do they evaluate the various duties that they owe and to whom? And how can confidentiality and privilege be protected when a person is wearing multiple hats, including a fiduciary hat?

With the guidance of Professor Tom Simmons, this presentation will look at issues of legal capacity through the lens of the rules of professional responsibility. It will also examine the ethical implications of representing a client who wears a fiduciary hat (or two).

Panel Discussion I Fiduciary Challenges: Past and Future

Hear from members of all areas of law while they discuss fiduciary challenges they have encountered, how they overcame them, and lessons they learned. The discussion will also touch on the future of the fiduciary field and upcoming challenges those in the industry can expect to confront.


Tim Billion
Robins Kaplan LLP


Suma Nair
Chief Fiduciary Officer
Fiduciary Trust Company

Judge Edward Wahl
District Court Judge
Minnesota Fourth Judicial District

Gabe Berg
Robins Kaplan LLP

Keynote I Cognitive Decline: Navigating Your Client's Capacity


Katie Englehart
Contributing Writer
The New York Times

This presentation will examine issues associated with dementia and diminished capacity and how both implicate challenging legal questions, giving legal practitioners an opportunity to consider questions necessary to minimize age- and disability-related bias from the practice of law when representing older adults and individuals with cognitive impairment. The potential for bias related to capacity—whether it be a result of age or disability—is something that lawyers and other professionals should thoughtfully consider when working with their clients. This presentation will consider these issues through the lens of the reporting done by NEW YORK TIMES contributing writer Katie Engelhart, focusing on one of her more recent articles: The Mother Who Changed: A Story of Dementia.

The presentation, conducted through an interview-style discussion moderated by attorney Anne Lockner, will consider some of the challenging questions raised in Ms. Engelhart’s reporting: “When cognitive decline changes people, should we respect their new desires?” How does a person with dementia instruct a lawyer to represent her desires and needs? How does a decision-maker “separate a person from her diseased brain”? How do judges, attorneys, and caregivers “safeguard a [person’s] autonomy while protecting her from her compromised self?” These questions implicate a range of professionals, including judges in their determinations, attorneys as they advocate for or against on behalf of their clients, and others who support or work with individuals experiencing cognitive decline.

Interactive Session I Ripped from the Headlines: Current Issues in Wealth Planning, Administration, and Fiduciary Disputes

Join us for a semi-competitive, interactive hour where you will work in teams to try to distinguish truth from fiction and speculate about “what happens next” in cases and situations related to fiduciaries. 


Denise Rahne
Partner and Co-Chair, Wealth Planning, Administration and Fiduciary Disputes
Robins Kaplan LLP

Tom Berndt
Robins Kaplan LLP

Networking Reception

CLE Accreditation
Robins Kaplan will seek approval with Mandatory Continuing Legal Education board in Minnesota for a maximum of 2.0 hours of Standard credit, 1.0 hour of Elimination of Bias credit, and 1.0 hour of Ethics credit.

Questions? Please contact Christine Berndt at CBerndt@RobinsKaplan.com.

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