Michele A. W. McKinnon Partner

Michele serves as the chair of the firm's nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations practice team. With more than 35 years of experience, Michele routinely represents many public charities, major colleges and universities, supporting organizations, large private foundations, and charitable trusts on a variety of federal tax and governance matters.

She assists tax-exempt organizations in all aspects of compliance with the federal tax laws, as well as with governance, endowment and investment matters. Her practice includes advice on compliance with the excess benefit transaction rules and the private foundation rules, including self-dealing, excess business holding, and taxable expenditure issues, participation in joint ventures, and consequences of unrelated trade or business activities. She also assists these organizations in dealing with the IRS in tax controversy matters and compliance audits.

Her work also includes structuring planned gifts to charitable organizations, including the use of charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, charitable gift annuities and conservation easements. She also works in the areas of estate planning, and estate and trust administration, handling the administration of large complex estates, fiduciary income tax matters, fiduciary litigation, and risk management for corporate trust departments.

Michele is a Fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and she previously served as its Virginia State Chair. She also is the immediate Past Chair of ACTEC’s Charitable Planning & Exempt Organizations Committee. Michele is also a member of the Fiduciary Income Tax Committee of the Tax Section of the American Bar Association and is a former chair of the Trusts and Estates Section of the Virginia State Bar.


Implementation of numerous planned gifts, including charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, gift annuities, and gifts of remainder interests in personal residences, including related gift documents and plans to meet unique donor objectives.

Establishment of and advice to numerous family and corporate private foundations regarding self-dealing, excess business holding, jeopardy investment, minimum distribution, and taxable expenditure rules. Requests for IRS rulings on tax classification changes, including conversions to private foundation, publicly supported organization, and Type I, II, or III supporting organization.

Advice on unrelated business income tax issues, including affinity card agreements, debt-financed income, and gift shop sales.

Preparation of planned giving forms for a number of educational institutions and corporate fiduciaries.

Legal, tax, and governance compliance audits for several university-affiliated foundations and a large national membership organization.

Excess benefit transaction advice in connection with executive compensation of chief executive and other officers of universities and other public charities and sales transactions involving substantial contributors to public charities.

Planning and implementation of sale and gift of major art collection valued at more than $40 million to museum-affiliated foundation.

  • William & Mary Law School, LLM, 1992
  • University of Richmond School of Law, JD, magna cum laude, Member, University of Richmond Law Review, 1985
  • University of Virginia, BA, 1982

Member and Fellow; Virginia State Chair, 2008-2013; Vice Chair, 2018-2019; Chair 2019-2020, Charitable Planning & Exempt Organizations Committee, 2009-2012, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel

Director, The Steward School

Trustee, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation

Taxation Section Member, Fiduciary Income Tax Committee, American Bar Association

Member, Real Property, Probate & Trust Section, American Bar Association

Member; Chairman, 1999-2000; Vice Chairman, 1998-1999; Secretary, 1997-1998, Trusts and Estates Section, Virginia State Bar

Member, Richmond Bar Association

Member, Virginia Bar Association

Member, National Association of Charitable Gift Planners

Member, Virginia Gift Planning Council

Member, Community Foundation for a greater Richmond Professional Advisors Council

Member, National Association of Colleges and University Attorneys

Director, 2001-2009, The Community Foundation, Richmond, Virginia

Director, Missionary Emergency Fund

Director, Richmond Opportunities, Inc.

Member, Charitable Advisors, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

  • Speaker, "Hot Topics for Unrelated Trade or Business Activities" and "Tax Considerations Related to Mission or Program-Related Investments," 19th Annual Nonprofit Seminar: Lessons Learned, Opportunities Ahead – Planning Under Continuing Uncertainty, Richmond, Charlottesville, Charlotte and Raleigh, September – October 2022
  • Speaker, "Current Developments" and "Best Practices Related to Gift Acceptance Policies and Gift Agreements: In-Depth Discussion of Modification of Restricted and/or Endowed Gifts," 18th Annual Nonprofit Seminar: Navigating Through Uncertainty, November - December 2021
  • Speaker, "Current Developments and Update on 2017 Tax Act Changes Affecting Nonprofits," "Common Questions and Errors on Form 990 and Form 990-T," "Your Charity is a Beneficiary: What Next?" and "Charitable Giving in a Nutshell," 17th Annual Nonprofit Seminar: Staying Current in a Changing Landscape, September - November 2019
  • Speaker, "Charitable Tax Planning Under the 2017 Tax Act," 14th Annual Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar, Wednesday, October 2, 2019
  • Speaker, Tax Reform Impact on Employee Benefits of Tax-Exempt Organizations Webinar, April 2, 2019
  • Speaker, "Philanthropy: Impact of Taxes and Other Motivating Factors on Donors," 48th Annual Estate Planning Seminar, Estate Planning Council of Portland, February 2019
  • Co-Presenter, "Nonprofits and Exempt Organizations One Year After Tax Reform," Strafford, February 2019
  • Co-Panelist, "The Life Cycle of a Charity," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2019
  • Speaker, "2017 Tax Act Changes Affecting Nonprofits", "Charitable Giving after the 2017 Tax Act" and "Effective Advocacy for Change: Understanding Tax Boundaries," 16th Annual Nonprofit Seminar, October - November 2018
  • Speaker, "Philanthropy: Impact of Taxes and other Motivating Factors on Donors," 13th Annual Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar: Opportunities for Fiduciaries in Times of Change, October 2018
  • Co-Speaker, "A Fresh Look at Charitable Planning," ACTEC Southeast Regional Meeting, September 2018
  • Speaker, "Planned Giving in 2018 and Beyond: Income Tax Changes Set the Stage for a Different Conversation Around Philanthropy," Milwaukee Estate Planning Forum, June 2018
  • Co-Speaker, "Current Tax Developments affecting Higher Education Foundations," 6th Annual Virginia Higher Education Foundation CEO Conference, June 2018
  • Co-Speaker, "How to Support Your Nonprofit’s Mission: Creating Change Through Advocacy," Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, April 2018
  • Speaker, "Tax Reform and the Impact on Tax-Exempt Organizations," Essential Insight on Sweeping Tax Reforms, February 2018
  • Co-Panelist, "Structuring Philanthropy – What Works When," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2018
  • Speaker, "What’s a Donor to Do? Planned Giving in a Changing Tax Landscape," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2018
  • Speaker, "Creative Uses of Planned Giving Techniques in an Uncertain Tax Environment," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2018
  • Speaker, "Hot Topics for Non-Profits", "Investments: Special Considerations for Nonprofits" and "Charitable Giving: A Potpourri," 15th Annual Nonprofit Seminar: Back to Basics, September - November 2017
  • Panelist, Tax Reform Behind the Headlines: Challenges and Opportunities for Charities, McGuireWoods LLP Webinar, June 6, 2017
  • Speaker, "Charitable Remainder and Charitable Lead Trusts: The Rules and Creative Planning Opportunities in the Current Tax and Economic Environment," 46th Annual Estate Planning Seminar, Estate Planning Council of Portland, January 2017
  • Co-Speaker, "The Nuts and Bolts of Charitable Remainder and Charitable Lead Trusts: Tax Rules, Drafting Guidelines and Creative Planning Ideas," Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2016
  • Speaker, New Developments in Tax and Wealth Planning, October 2015
  • Speaker, "Tax Classification of Charitable Organizations: Public Charities, Private Foundations, and Donor Advised Funds," "Unrelated Business Taxable Income: Case Studies," "Drafting Effective Gift Agreements" and "Charitable Remainder and Charitable Lead Trusts: A Primer," 13th Annual Nonprofit Seminar – Staying Current and Avoiding Trouble: What Nonprofits Need to Know, September - October 2015
  • Speaker, "Issues with Proprietary Funds," Be a Road Warrior, Not Road Kill: Issues Confronting Fiduciaries, October 2015
  • Co-Speaker, "Restricted Charitable Gifts: Draft Agreements that Stand the Test of Time," 49th Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 2015
  • Faculty, "After the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012," Charitable Planning in 2013, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, February 2013
  • Speaker, "Global Philanthropy," ACTEC Charitable Planning Committee, October 2011
  • Panelist, "Selecting the Best Charitable Donee: Public Charity, Donor Advised Fund, or Private Foundation," ACTEC Annual Meeting, March 2010
  • Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. Tax Court

Named "Lawyer of the Year," Richmond, Trusts and Estates, The Best Lawyers in America, 2018, 2023

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Non-Profit/Charities Law, Trusts and Estates, Woodward/White, Inc., 2007-2023

Selected for inclusion in “Legal 500 United States,” Education; Not-for-profit: Nonprofit and Tax-Exempt Organizations, 2021, 2022

Named to "Virginia Super Lawyers," Non-Profit, Tax, Estate Planning & Probate, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2006, 2012-2013, 2015-2022

Named a "Notable Practitioner," Private Wealth Law, Band 1, District of Columbia and Nationwide, 2016, 2017; Band 2, Virginia, 2018, 2019; Band 1, Virginia, 2020-2022, Chambers HNW Guide

Named a "Divorce, Trusts and Estates Trailblazer," The National Law Journal, 2017

Selected for inclusion in America's Leading Lawyers for Business, Wealth Management: Eastern Region, Nationwide, Chambers USA, 2013-2016

Back to top