Barbara K. Wheaton

Barbara Wheaton concentrates her legal practice on estate planning, estate and trust administration, charitable giving, and related disciplines. Barbara's clients include high net worth individuals, business owners, family offices, charities, and fiduciaries. She represents her clients' interests in probate proceedings involving trustee or executor duties, guardianships, trust administration and reformation, and contested estate administrations.

Barbara also works extensively with nonprofit organizations, helping them obtain and retain their tax exempt status. She provides effective solutions to the tax and regulatory problems frequently confronting private foundations and public charities. Barbara speaks frequently to nonprofit boards about best governance practices and tax compliance.

Barbara provides sophisticated, solution-driven estate planning services to high net worth individuals and their families. She frequently works with individuals who have special estate planning considerations, such as substantial real estate holdings, closely held businesses, retirement plan assets, intellectual property, and special family considerations. Barbara regularly employs advanced tax planning techniques to meet effectively her clients' personal, tax, and strategic objectives.

Barbara is a strong advocate for her clients in proceedings in the Probate Court. Barbara also provides expert witness services in cases involving fiduciary duties, contested estates, and complex estate and gift tax matters. Barbara frequently defends estates, trusts and individuals in audits with the IRS and Maine Revenue Services on estate and gift tax issues and related income tax concerns.

Barbara regularly develops charitable entities to advance her clients' tax reduction and philanthropic initiatives, creatively tailoring the organizational structures, governance provisions, and tax characteristics of such entities to meet the particular strategic needs of the client.

Honors & Distinctions
  • The Best Lawyers in America® “Lawyer of the Year” in Maine for Trusts & Estates Litigation (2022 & 2024)
  • Received a top "Band 1" ranking in Private Wealth Law in Maine in Chambers USA High Net Worth Guide (2016-present)
  • The Best Lawyers in America® “Lawyer of the Year” in Maine for Tax Law (2016)
  • The Best Lawyers in America® “Lawyer of the Year” in Maine for Trusts and Estates (2013 & 2024)
  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® for Trusts and Estates (2003-present), Trusts and Estates Litigation (2014-present), Tax Law (2014-present), and Elder Law (2015-present)
  • Rated AV® Preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Chair of Pierce Atwood’s Tax Department, responsible for the strategic and financial direction of a department of 12 lawyers, six paralegals, and 10 support staff across three regional offices (1996-2004)
Professional Activities
  • Chair, Professional Ethics Commission of the Maine Board of Bar Overseers
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Fellow, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and member of the Senior Advisory Committee of the ACTEC New England Fellows Institute
  • Member, American Bar Association, Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law
  • Member, Maine State Bar Association
  • Former president, Maine Estate Planning Council
Civic Activities
  • United Way of Greater Portland, including serving as Director, Member of the Strategic Planning Committee and of the Resource Development Committee, Chair of the Investment and Planned Giving Committee (1998-present)

Practice Areas

Representative Experience
  • Developed and implemented the strategic and legal framework for a private foundation’s state-wide charitable initiative to bring STEM-field professionals to Maine through a public/private student-loan debt reduction program. 
  • Implemented estate planning and philanthropic strategies for successful entrepreneur on eve of $140 million sale of the company, including creation of fundamental estate planning documents, charitable trusts, and private foundations to provide a seamless wealth management structure and to enhance the after-tax results of the sale
  • Over 20 years counseling entrepreneurial couples and their children on their estate planning, including strategically positioning their estate plan for the eventual sale of their successful closely-held company, and continued representation of the clients in the management of family trusts, land conservation initiatives, and overall wealth transfer strategies
  • Counseled individual trustees through complex merger transaction involving the family's $300 million corporation and through the subsequent shift of the family's wealth from operating company to investable assets, and otherwise continuing effectively to serve as outside "in-house" counsel for the trustees in their ongoing fiduciary responsibilities
  • Designed and implemented strategy employing integrated UK trust and US LLC to successfully move valuable London real estate from the client's estate while minimizing UK transfer tax and US gift tax consequences
  • Successfully defended IRS income tax audit involving prearranged sale allegations and a $3 million charitable deduction arising from sale of clients' closely held business, resulting in a "no change" report from the auditor