Bill Hennessey leads Gunster’s Probate, Trust & Guardianship Litigation practice.

Bill concentrates his practice in:

  • Will and trust contests and defense of fiduciaries and beneficiaries
  • Complex and disputed estate and trust administration and accounting litigation
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claims
  • Surcharge and removal litigation
  • Estate, gift and generation skipping tax planning
  • Business succession planning
  • Will and trust construction and reformation
  • Trust modification, revocation and termination
  • Competency proceedings
  • Ethics and professional liability defense in trust and estate related disputes

Bill regularly handles complex, high-stakes matters for wealthy families and fiduciaries, and finds creative, efficient solutions to trusts and estates disputes. He leads Gunster’s Probate, Trust & Guardianship Litigation practice. Bill is the past chair of the Probate and Trust Litigation and Legislative Committees of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section (RPPTL) of the Florida Bar where he was responsible for shepherding all of the Section’s probate and trust legislation through the legislative process. He currently chairs the Ad Hoc Estate Planning Conflicts of Interest Committee and is an officer of the RPPTL Section. Bill is also a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and servers as a member of its Fiduciary Litigation and Professional Responsibility Committees. He is a frequent author and lecturer on probate and trust litigation, ethics, and professional liability topics.

  • Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)
    • Fiduciary Litigation Committee
    • Professional Responsibility Committee
  • Chambers & Partners, “Leaders in Their Field,” High Net Worth Guide, Private Wealth Law, 2016
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Trusts & Estates Litigation “Lawyer of the Year” in West Palm Beach, 2013; Trusts & Estates “Lawyer of the Year” in West Palm Beach, 2016
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Trusts & Estates, Trusts & Estates Litigation, 2008-17
  • AV Rated as independently determined by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Florida Super Lawyers, 2008-16
  • South Florida Legal Guide, Top Lawyer
  • Florida Trend, Legal Elite, 2011, 2013

  • “Look Before You Leap! Planning at the Cliff of the Client’s Capacity”, Ave Maria School of Law Estate Planning Conference, 2016
  • “I See Dead People! Attorney Liability and Conflict of Interest Considerations in Estate Planning…From a Litigator’s Perspective”, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Bar Association, 2016
  • “Ten Pounds of Duty in a Five-Pound Bag! Attorney Liability and Conflicts of Interest Considerations in Estate Planning”, Pilot Legis Annual Risk Management Conference, 2015
  • “What’s Hot in Florida”, An Update From a Litigator’s Perspective, Heckerling Institute, 2015
  • “Got Civility”, Lawyer Professionalism, RPPTL Estate and Trust Law Symposium, 2015, and Florida Legal Education Association, 2014
  • “A Primer on Multijurisdictional Practice” or “How to Cross the Border Without Getting Caught”, ACTEC 2015
  • “Make Love Not War – Guardianship Fraud Prevention,” RPPTL 2014 Legislative and Case Law Update, 2014
  • “The Unofficial 2014 Legislative Wrap Up – A Report from the Firing Line,” Collier County Bar Association, 2014
  • “Danger, Will Robinson: Ethical and Conflict of Interest Considerations in Estate Planning,” Naples Estate Planning Council, 2014
  • “Risky Business: Ethical Considerations for Drafting Attorneys (Part Deux),” Florida Legal Education Association, 2013
  • “Thanks, But No Thanks: The Ethics of Client Gifts,” RPPTL 2013 Legislative and Case Law Update, 2013
  • “The South Indian Monkey Trap: The Ethics of Client Gifts,” Attorney Trust Office Liaison Conference, 2013
  • “Facing Reality: Practical Tips and Tools for the Preservation of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) for the Fiduciary Litigator,” American College of Trusts and Estate Council, 2013
  • “Attorney and Fiduciary Liability: Ten Pounds of Duty in a Five Pound Bag,” Florida Bar, 2013
  • “2012 Legislative Update: Tales from the Sausage Works,” Palm Beach County Bar Association, 2012
  • “You Want to Give Me What? Ethical Considerations for Drafting Attorneys,” Florida Bar, 2012
  • “2011 Legislative Update: The Future Ain’t What is Used to Be!” Palm Beach County Bar Association, 2011
  • “The First Line of Defense?! Know Your Client, Probate Team,” Florida Legal Education Association, 2011
  • ”Strings Attached: Enforcing Your Donor Intent,” 2011
  • “Fiduciary Litigation in an Era of Rapidly Changing Technology: Will You Be the Last Samurai?” ACTEC, 2010
  • “It Was Right Here – a Little While Ago … and I’m Sure It Said… Lost , Destroyed and Altered Wills,” Probate Team, Florida Legal Education Association, 2010
  • “Avoiding the Grinch: Drafting, Enforcing and Challenging Charitable Pledges,” Planned Giving Council/East Coast Estate Planning Council, 2009
  • “On the Hook, Ineffective Delegation of Fiduciary Functions,” Florida Bankers Association, 2009
  • “Out With the Old, In For the New: Succession of Fiduciaries,” Florida Legal Education Association, 2009
  • “Third Annual Seminar, Ethics,” ALI-ABA/ACTEC, 2009
  • “Chinks in the Armor – How Much Protection Do Exculpatory Clauses and Waivers of the Provident Investor Rule Really Provide,” Florida Bankers Association, 2009
  • “Till Death Do Us Part: Challenging the Validity of Marriage in Probate Proceedings,” Your 2007 Trust & Estate Symposium (Florida Bar), Florida Fellows Meeting, ACTEC, 2008
  • “Conflicts Quagmire I: Payment of Trustee Attorneys’ Fees When Defending Breach of Duty Claims,” 2008 Legislative and Case Law Update of the Florida Bar
  • “Tangled Web – Attorney-Client and Fiduciary Conflicts,” Probate Team, Florida Legal Education Association, 2008
  • “Your 2008 Trust and Estate Symposium – Litigation Under the New Trust Code,” program chair, Florida Bar
  • “Conflicts Quagmire II: Recognizing and Addressing Conflicts for Your Fiduciary Clients,” Your 2006 Trust & Estate Symposium of the Florida Bar
  • “Uncivil War: Navigating the Minefields of Probate and Trust Litigation,” Wills, Trusts and Estates Certification Review course of the Florida Bar
  • “What’s Good for the Goose… Elective Share and Other Spousal Rights,” Wills, Trusts and Estates Certification Review course of the Florida Bar
  • “Probate and Trust Litigation: When the ‘Ties That Bind’ Unwind,” Wills, Trusts and Estates Certification Review course of the Florida Bar
  • “Be Careful What You Wish For – Gifts to Drafting Attorneys,” ActionLine Vol. XXXIV, Fall 2012
  • “Intestate Succession,” Litigation Under Florida Probate Code, (3rd – 9th ed.)
  • “Will Construction,” Litigation Under Florida Probate Code, (3rd – 9th ed.)
  • “Elective Share,” Practice Under Florida Probate Code, (3rd – 7th ed.)
  • “Establishing the Guardianship,” Florida Guardianship Practice (8th ed.)
  • Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Executive Committee of Professional Advisors

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