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William W. Sleeth III

5425 Discovery Park Boulevard
Suite 200
Williamsburg, Virginia 23188
Phone:  757.941.2821
Fax:  757.941.2879
919 East Main Street
Twenty-Fourth Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Biography

Will Sleeth is a trial lawyer who represents businesses and individuals in a wide array of litigation matters in state and federal court throughout Virginia and the nation. He has a specialty focus in the areas of estate litigation (litigating will disputes, trust disputes, elder law disputes, and guardianship proceedings), retail and hospitality law (representing hotel chains, resorts, and restaurants) and in the field of community association representation (representing homeowners associations, condominium associations, and developers in their general legal matters). He also serves as general counsel to an array of businesses, advising them on their litigation and general legal needs.

His achievements include:

  • Will was promoted to partner by LeClairRyan in 2013, earning the distinction of having been one of the then-youngest attorneys ever promoted to partner at a major national (Am Law 200) law firm, having been promoted after only five years of practice.
  • LeClairRyan named Will as the team leader of the firm’s Estate and Trust Litigation Practice Area Team in 2015, at age 32, making him what is believed to be the then-youngest attorney to ever lead a practice area team at an Am Law 200 law firm.
  • He has been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine for numerous years in the fields of Estate & Trust Litigation, and Business Litigation, an honor conferred upon less than 2.5% of attorneys in Virginia.

Estate Litigation

Will serves as the leader of the firm’s Estate and Trust Litigation Practice Area Team, a nationwide team composed of over a dozen attorneys focusing on disputes involving wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, powers of attorney, and elder law matters. Having litigated over 100 estate disputes – ranging from local disputes in Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, to those all across Virginia, to complex multi-jurisdictional disputes throughout the nation involving estates valued at over $50 million – Will knows the ins and outs of the complex legal and emotional issues that arise when individuals and families need legal counsel to deal with estate issues and elder law disputes. Will handles some of the largest and highest-profile will and trust disputes in the area, and has litigated cases that have collectively totaled over approximately $225 million in assets. For years, Will worked side by side with the late Paul Cullum, an internationally renowned estate litigator who published one of the leading treatises on estate litigation.

Will has litigated a wide array of will disputes, including bringing and defending against challenges to wills on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, and failure to comply with the proper formalities. He has also litigated cases involving will interpretation disputes. His cases often involve high net-worth individuals and families, and Will’s experience has not only prepared him to aptly handle the legal issues involved in those cases, but also to proficiently handle the media and public relations issues that occasionally arise with such cases.

His trust litigation practice consists of bringing, and defending against, challenges to trustees regarding claims of breach of fiduciary duty, claims of violations of the Virginia Uniform Trust Code (including failure of the trustee to inform and report to the beneficiaries), and claims of violations of the Uniform Prudent Investor Act. His clients range from large institutional trust companies, to individual trustees, to charities that are trust beneficiaries.

Will has handled countless guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, including hotly contested proceedings, and proceedings relating to agents under a power of attorney misusing their authority. His experience provides him with the insight to handle matters ranging from routine uncontested guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, to vigorously contested proceedings involving disagreeable families and friends.

Additionally, Will also represents individuals, families, and friends in situations involving elder law disputes and the exploitation of elderly persons. He has extensive experience with situations involving: people pressuring elderly people to change their wills or trusts or make gifts; mistreatment or exploitation of elderly people; and instances of “parent-napping” or “granny-napping.”

Will serves as the editor of the Estate Conflicts legal blog, which can be accessed at: www.estateconflicts.com.

Community Association Representation (Homeowners Associations, Condominium Associations, and Developers) 
Will serves as the co-leader of LeClairRyan’s Community Associations Industry Team, and serves as counsel to many homeowners and condominium associations throughout Virginia, representing associations ranging in size from large-scale resort-centered communities with significant facilities, to smaller neighborhood associations. He has also represented local and large-scale national developers in the creation and establishment of complex master-planned residential, mixed-use, commercial, and "New Urbanism" communities throughout Virginia.

He assists community associations with their general legal needs, including document interpretation, document amendments (including amending and restating declarations of restrictive covenants), document enforcement, guiding associations through the process of transfer from developer-control, collections matters, contract review and drafting, fair housing issues, and regulatory compliance (including issues concerning the Common Interest Community Board). Will has also litigated dozens of community association disputes, including several high-profile cases that received state-wide or national attention (including successfully defending a condominium association from a novel legal challenge to a bylaws amendment, and successfully trying to verdict a case upholding the validity of a special assessment).

A frequent speaker in the industry, Will has been invited to speak at numerous conferences, tradeshows, and industry events put on by various chapters of CAI (the Community Associations Institute), as well as local governments.

Business and Contract Disputes
Will represents businesses ranging from large multinational corporations to small, closely-held companies in a wide array of business and contract disputes, and has successfully tried multiple breach-of-contract claims to verdict. He is also experienced in litigating disputes between shareholders, as well as fraud, defamation, conspiracy, tortious interference, and other business-related claims.

Tort Claims
Will has represented numerous large national and international companies in products liability matters throughout Virginia, and successfully tried to verdict an array of products liability cases. He also represents a variety of hotels, apartment complexes, real estate investment trusts, institutional investors, and small-business owners in premises liability claims. His motor vehicle tort practice consists of representing national trucking companies, bus companies, and insurers in a wide variety of motor vehicle tort actions in both state and federal court. Between his premises liability cases and automotive cases, Will has defended over a dozen multi-million dollar personal injury claims, and a countless number of smaller claims.

Real Estate Litigation
Will has successfully tried to verdict an array of real estate disputes, including those involving community associations, partition claims, and eviction actions. He has also litigated claims for adverse possession, trespass, and a variety of title disputes. Additionally, Will has defended numerous title companies, title agents, and real estate agents in professional liability claims.

Publications and Education
Will has written and published extensively in the fields of estate litigation, business litigation, hospitality law, real estate, and community association law, and his articles have been featured in some of the leading trade industry journals and legal publications (including, for example, Estate Planning, Wealth Management, Core Compass, Wealth Strategies Journal, Financial Advisor Magazine, McKnight’s Long Term Care News, The Fee Simple, Modern Restaurant Management, USLAW Magazine, Currents, Docket Call, and Consensus), and he has been quoted in Virginia Lawyers Weekly and Common Ground.

Will attended law school at William & Mary, where he was one of three students in his graduating class selected to serve on both the William & Mary Law Review and the National Moot Court Team. He was also one of three students in the nation selected to serve as Executive Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Symposium Edition.

Legal Experience

  • LeClairRyan, Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia, 2008 – Present
  • Summer Associate, LeClairRyan, Richmond, Virginia, 2007
  • Student Clerk, The Honorable Samuel T. Powell III, Williamsburg – James City County Circuit Court, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2006

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Virginia State Bar
  • Virginia Bar Association
  • Virginia Peninsula Estate Planning Council
  • Estate Planning Council of Richmond
  • Williamsburg Bar Association (Vice President)
  • American Bar Association (Probate & Fiduciary Litigation Committee, Member)
  • Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Community Associations Institute, Southeastern Chapter
  • Williamsburg Kiwanis

Distinctions

  • Recipient of JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards – 2017 Top Author Award in Estate Litigation
  • Recognized as a Virginia Super Lawyers Rising Star by Law & Politics magazine for Business Litigation (2013) and Estate & Trust Litigation (2014 – 2017)
  • Leadership Historic Triangle (now known as LEAD Historic Triangle): Class of 2011; Commencement Speaker
  • Wheaton College Class of 2005: President
  • Student Commencement Speaker: Wheaton College Class of 2005

Education

  • J.D., William and Mary School of Law, 2008, Law Review
  • B.A., Political Science, magna cum laude, Wheaton College, 2005

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 2008

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia