St. Clair County attorney countersues woman in suit involving her late husband’s estate

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Oct 26, 2015


A St. Clair County attorney is countersuing a woman who claims legal malpractice involving her late husband’s estate.

Brenda Knuckles, individually and as a beneficiary of the Donald E. Knuckles Sr. Declaration Trust, filed a complaint on Aug. 4 against Valroy Binsbacher and Binsbacher & Griffithe LLC for alleged legal malpractice.

According to the complaint, Binsbacher was Donald Knuckles’ estate planning attorney. During a January 2012 meeting with Donald and Brenda Knuckles, the plaintiff claims Binsbacher did not inform them of possible complications with Brenda Knuckles’ beneficial interest in the Donald E. Knuckles Sr. Declaration of Trust. These complications allegedly arose out of the fact that the couple had previously divorced and then been remarried.

The plaintiff also claims Binsbacher represented Donald Knuckles Jr., whose interest in the assets of the trust were contrary to those of Brenda Knuckles, and that he failed to disclose this conflict of interest.

Brenda claims the defendant’s breaches of professional duty were not revealed until after her husband’s death on May 25, 2012. Shortly afterward, Binsbacher told Brenda Knuckles he could not advise her anymore, the suit states.

The plaintiff seeks a judgment of more than $50,000, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.

The defendants denied the allegations against them in their Sept. 24 answer through attorney A. J. Bronsky of Brown & James in St. Louis.

They also filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment, arguing that the trust was executed while Donald and Brenda were married and prior to their divorce. The two later remarried. The defendants claim that prior to Donald Knuckles Sr.’s death, he reaffirmed his estate plan.

D&D Motors LTD and Donald Knuckles Jr., as president of D&D Motors and as trustee of the Donald E. Knuckles St. declaration of trust, filed a motion to quash subpoenas and notices for deposition on Sept. 28 through attorneys Lorraine Cavataio and Clayton Kuhn of Sandberg Phoenix & con Gontard in O’Fallon.

According to the motion, the plaintiff issued two subpoenas and notices of deposition on Sept. 23 – one to D&D Motors and one to Donald Knuckles Jr. The subpoenas command the parties to appear and testify and to produce a list of documents and information from 2007 to present, including all tax returns and supporting documents, balance sheets, detailed general ledgers and profit and loss statements, a list of all assets that were owned by the deceased at the time of his death and all bills and statements that represent legal services, among others.

“The subpoenas and notices of deposition seek documents which are overly broad and unduly burdensome for Movants to produce, seek documents which are not relevant to the pending litigation, and seek proprietary and confidential financial information,” the motion states.

Therefore, the movants seek an order quashing the current subpoena and notice of deposition, narrowing the topics and documents requested and to enter into a protective order regarding the documents produced.

Associate Judge Randall Kelley scheduled a status conference for Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m.

Knuckles is represented by William T. Dowd of Dowd & Dowd PC in St. Louis

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-440

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Organizations in this Story

Brown & James, P.C. Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard P.C.

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