Top Estate Lawyers in the Bethesda Area | Page 3 of 4

Top Estate Lawyers in the Bethesda Area

Here are 17 local attorneys recommended by their peers

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Jeffrey Kolender
A University of South Carolina law school graduate, Jeffrey Kolender, 59, heads the substantial estate planning and estate and trust administration practice at Paley Rothman in Bethesda. Colleagues say Kolender has a compassionate demeanor while working with families after a death or divorce. Much of his work involves rewriting the wills of clients in a second marriage after a divorce. Kolender is “a really conscientious attorney and really seems to care about his clients,” one family attorney says. “I have worked with him closely over the years on prenuptial agreements and other areas where family law overlaps with estates and trusts.”

Kathleen Li
Kathleen Li, who goes by “Cassie,” graduated from the University of Virginia law school and went to work in estate planning at Ropes & Gray, one of Boston’s oldest and most prestigious firms. That put Li in the middle of a practice that involved elite clients with high net worths and private foundations. Then, at D.C.’s Covington & Burling, she gained a reputation as one of the best and brightest young lawyers at the firm. Colleagues say Li, 47, “knows the tax stuff cold,” so she joined Furey, Doolan & Abell in Bethesda. Says Li: “A will can be as simple or as complicated as you want, but there is no one right answer for everybody. You just have to figure out a plan that works for them.”

Paul Riekhof

A native of Missouri, Paul Riekhof, 51, followed his attorney wife to the Washington, D.C., area and spent five years as a sole practitioner in Silver Spring before being chosen to head the estate planning practice at Rockville’s Joseph Greenwald & Laake, a regional powerhouse with offices in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. True to his roots in the Show Me State, Riekhof likes to visit his clients at their homes to get a better sense of who they are and what assets they have. He recommends that clients who decide to change their revocable wills on their own make sure to have an attorney check that the changes will hold up in court. “We have had several occasions of having to probate such wills and have them interpreted by the court,” says Riekhof, who graduated from the University of Colorado law school. “It is not extremely common, but it occurs.”

Phil O’Donoghue
Phil O’Donoghue, 68, of Furey, Doolan & Abell in Bethesda is one of the attorneys often mentioned when colleagues are asked to name the best estate lawyer in Montgomery County. Said one peer: “Phil has incredible depth and wisdom.” O’Donoghue—his father was an attorney and his grandfather was a federal judge—earned his law degree from Georgetown University. He says he works mostly with clients with high net worths. What does he tell a client who’s concerned about Maryland’s estate tax? “I tell him to move to Florida or Virginia,” two states with no estate tax, he says. “Funny, but I find that most pick Florida.”

Stephanie Perry
Stephanie Perry, 38, graduated from Emory University’s law school in Atlanta. She was recruited by Pasternak & Fidis in Bethesda after meeting managing partner Nancy Fax at a conference. (Fax, who was also chosen by her peers as one of the top estate attorneys in the county, died in June after a brief illness.) Perry’s colleagues say it was one of Fax’s best moves. Perry is “really good with people, understands family dynamics and knows how to make people feel comfortable in bad circumstances,” Fax said in April. “She is calm, supportive and thoughtful.” Perry is one of the youngest lawyers ever admitted into the profession’s prestigious American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

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