Barbara Grayson is a partner and Chair of Willkie’s Private Clients Group in Chicago. She represents high-net-worth individuals and families, family owned businesses, family offices and charitable organizations on a wide range of legal issues related to family owned businesses, private equity investments, proprietary funds, family offices, private trust companies, charitable organizations, multigenerational wealth, governance and succession issues, and fiduciary responsibilities. She has extensive estate planning experience, including structuring solutions for transferring wealth to younger generations and succession planning for complex family situations.
The 2021 edition of Chambers High Net Worth ranks Barbara in Band 1 among the leading Private Wealth practitioners in Illinois, writing that clients report “she understands the real world complexities that her clients face and seeks to identify creative solutions for their individual circumstances.” The 2020 edition cites she “is an exceptional attorney that brings an enormous amount of expertise, knowledge, experience, creativity and stability to each and every client relationship.”
Barbara regularly counsels clients through a variety of major life events, such as establishing a family foundation, developing a business succession plan, negotiating premarital agreements, administering the estate of a deceased family member and establishing gift trusts for children or grandchildren.
Barbara’s tax planning experience is focused on gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes. She works with clients to design and implement estate plans, including wills, trusts and lifetime gifts. She also structures partnerships, limited liability companies, corporations, shareholder agreements and buy-sell agreements. She counsels clients regarding sophisticated planning for family businesses, including corporate recapitalizations, corporate governance, intrafamily sales and family partnerships. She also has experience in the international aspects of the estate planning practice.
A sizeable portion of Barbara’s practice focuses on philanthropic matters, including the representation and advising of tax-exempt organizations and the representation of individuals with respect to charitable giving. She has helped clients to establish public charities, private foundations and private operating foundations, and she also counsels clients as to best practices in administering those organizations in light of the complicated tax rules surrounding their governance and permissible activities.
Barbara’s practice also includes probate and trust administration, as well as litigation counseling on contested tax, trust and estate matters. She often represents fiduciaries and individual beneficiaries in the administration of estates and trusts. Barbara has experience in a variety of tax, trust and estate disputes, including controversies over will and trust construction, the impact of premarital agreements and divorce decrees on estate administration, and alleged breaches of fiduciary responsibilities.