Sean F. Murphy


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  • William & Mary Law School, JD, 1982
  • University of Maryland, BA, 1979
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Sean is a litigation partner in McGuireWoods’ Private Wealth Services Group who handles sensitive fiduciary matters in courts throughout the United States. He represents high net worth individuals and families, executors, guardians, conservators, beneficiaries and trustees in the prosecution and defense of:

  • Probate and estate litigation
  • Trust disputes
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claims
  • Will contests
  • Construction of trusts
  • Reformation of private, split-interest and charitable trusts
  • Accountings
  • Guardianship litigation
  • Petitions for court instructions
  • Claims alleging or seeking protection from allegations of undue influence and fraudulent conveyances
  • Interpretation of or defense of testamentary capacity and a decedent’s intent

Sean is a frequent author and speaker on issues facing corporate fiduciaries and how to avoid fiduciary litigation.

Sean F Murphy
T: +1 703 712 5487F: +1 703 712 52431750 Tysons Boulevard
Suite 1800
Tysons, VA 22102-4215
The following are among the significant fiduciary matters that Sean has handled by himself or in conjunction with other members of the firm:

Regularly represents corporate fiduciaries in termination of trusts, suits for aid and direction and in negotiating or litigating agreements with beneficiaries regarding trust investments and other trust administration matters.

Regularly provides advice on fiduciary obligations and legal responsibilities of corporate fiduciaries under state laws where the corporate fiduciaries have offices.

Regularly conducts seminars for corporate fiduciaries on ways to avoid fiduciary litigation.

Represented charitable beneficiaries in Maryland Orphans’ Court and Circuit Court in response to widow’s request to invalidate will leaving residuary of estate to them.

Represented trustees of multi-million dollar trust in Virginia state court proceeding seeking approval of their accounting for the trust.

Represented executors of $100 million estate in response to fee and administration challenges from family of decedent.

Represented corporate fiduciary in resolving beneficiary challenges to trustee’s administration of over 20 multi-generational family trusts.

Represented corporate fiduciary in New York Surrogate’s Court and ancillary probate proceedings in Louisiana in dispute over sale of mineral rights owned by trust.

Represented corporate executor of multi-million dollar estate in New York Surrogate’s Court action to remove co-executor for lack of capacity to serve.

Represented a beneficiary in a multi-million dollar trust in Florida state court action seeking removal of the trustees of his trust and opposing the trustees’ request for court approval of their accounting for the trust.

Representing corporate fiduciary in Maryland Circuit Court seeking approval of its accounting for trust.

Defended a mother against a lawsuit of two of her children seeking appointment of a conservator for her and control of her wealth.

Defended corporate fiduciary against beneficiary’s request to terminate a multimillion-dollar trust and the transfer of all trust assets to beneficiary.

Represented corporate fiduciary in resolving beneficiary challenges to trustee’s administration of $20 million family trusts.

Represented a Minnesota bank against a suit in Virginia state court regarding the bank’s actions as trustees for bondholders of a Delaware limited partnership. After a year of litigation, the plaintiffs nonsuited their claims for conversion, fraud and the imposition of a constructive trust.

Represented the petitioners who sought the appointment of a guardian for their father and a conservator to manage his multimillion-dollar estate.

Represented a New York nonprofit charitable foundation in a Virginia state court fiduciary proceeding against the principal officer and director of the foundation and the Executrix of the estate responsible for funding the foundation from the estate. This suit resulted in a satisfactory settlement for the foundation.

Represented the president, majority shareholder and director of two corporations against allegations of an unauthorized inter-corporation transfer characterized as a breach of fiduciary duty and as a fraudulent conveyance. Plaintiffs non-suited after a year and a half of litigation.

Represented the trustees of family trusts in response to the daughter’s claims of mismanagement.

Repeatedly represented religious organizations and other nonprofit organizations in litigation challenging bequests in wills to those clients.

Represented a client in disputes arising from her positions as a beneficiary of a family trust and executor of her mother’s estate.

Represented family members in asserting breach of fiduciary duty in claims arising from relative’s management of mother’s estate and family limited partnership.

Represented husband and grantor of children’s trusts in litigation to remove ex-wife as trustee.

Represented niece of testator in defending aunt’s will against claims of incompetence and undue influence by aunt’s sisters who received nothing under the will.

Challenged on behalf of a child’s mother in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the juvenile court’s determination of jurisdiction over her child as a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA). This case resolved for the first time in Maryland the jurisdictional requirements for a CINA finding in a Maryland juvenile court proceeding. In re Russell, 108 Md. App. 366, 672 A.2d 109 (1996).

Jointly defended the directors of a Virginia bank against a minority shareholder’s class action allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and violations of federal securities laws involving the bank’s “going private” merger. Sandberg v. Virginia Bankshares, 111 S.Ct. 2749 (1991).

AV Rated, Martindale-Hubbell

Named to "Virginia Super Lawyers," Business Litigation, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2006

Named to "Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers," Business Litigation, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2007

Speaker, "Fiduciary Litigation Update, Ethics," 12th Annual Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar; Issues Confronting Institutional Fiduciaries, October 4, 2017
Speaker, "Perennial Problems Facing Corporate Fiduciaries," Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, Asset Management Forum, July 11-13, 2017
Speaker, "How a Fiduciary Can Avoid an Ethical Quagmire: Ethical Challenges Posed by Transfers among Family Members," New Developments in Tax and Wealth Planning Seminar, April 25, 2017
Moderator, "Pretrial Matters and Trial Preparation," The Rocket Docket: Trying Cases in the Eastern District of Virginia, Virginia CLE, December 8, 2016
Speaker, "Fiduciary Litigation Update" and "How A Fiduciary Can Avoid An Ethical Quagmire," 11th Annual Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar, October 5, 2016
Speaker, "Ways to Avoid Fiduciary Litigation," Accutech Executive Conference, April 27, 2016
Speaker, "Trust and Estate Administration: Lessons Learned Concerning Mature Gifts or Bequests," 24th Annual CASE Conference for Institutionally Related Foundations, April 7, 2016
Speaker, "Managing a Trust to Avoid Litigation," AGB University Foundation Legal Counsel, October 9, 2015
Speaker, "Fiduciary Litigation Roundtable" and "Twenty Steps to Avoid Fiduciary Litigation (Ethics)," Be a Road Warrior, Not Road Kill: Issues Confronting Fiduciaries, October 7, 2015
Speaker, "Tips to Keep You Out of Fiduciary Litigation," Trust Conference of New York Bankers Association, October 2, 2015
Speaker, "Tips to Help Keep You Out of Litigation," 24th Annual Trust Officers Forum, Pinehurst, North Carolina, February 23, 2015
Speaker, "Fiduciary Litigation Update" and "Ethical Considerations for Professional Fiduciaries," What You Do Not Know Can Hurt You, October 7, 2014
Speaker, "Fiduciary Litigation Update," and "Ethics Concerns for Trust Officers," Surmounting the Current Challenges: Issues Confronting Professional Fiduciaries, October 10, 2013
Speaker, Who’s on First? Issues Confronting Professional Fiduciaries, The Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar, co-presented by the Fiduciary Education Center, October 9, 2012