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.
With Gordon & Rees being the largest law firm with a presence on the Virginia Peninsula (at over 900 attorneys across the firm), and the first and only law firm to have attorneys and offices in all 50 states, Mr. Sleeth offers his clients a sophisticated quality of legal representation. Through Gordon & Rees’ national platform, Mr. Sleeth and his colleagues can handle virtually any legal matter anywhere in the country. Mr. Sleeth has served as the managing partner of the firm’s Williamsburg office since he and his colleagues opened the office in early 2019.
His accomplishments include:
At his prior law firm (LeClairRyan), Mr. Sleeth was promoted to partner 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 Mr. Sleeth 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.
Mr. Sleeth serves as the co-chair of the firm’s Estate and Trust Litigation practice group, a nationwide team focusing on disputes involving wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, powers of attorney, and elder law matters. Having handled over 200 estate disputes – ranging from local disputes in Williamsburg, Hampton Roads, and Richmond, to those all across Virginia, to complex multi-jurisdictional disputes throughout the nation involving estates valued at over $50 million – Mr. Sleeth 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. Mr. Sleeth 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 $350 million in assets. For years, Mr. Sleeth worked side by side with the late Paul Cullum, an internationally renowned estate litigator who authored one of the leading treatises on estate litigation. Mr. Sleeth was the lead counsel in the precedent-setting case of Hunter v. Hunter before the Virginia Supreme Court, in which the Court (for the first time) expressly approved of an alternative-pleading model whereby a trust beneficiary may first seek a declaratory judgment as to whether a proposed claim would trigger a no contest clause, and obtain a ruling on that threshold question, before deciding whether to proceed with the prosecution of the claim.
Mr. Sleeth 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 Mr. Sleeth’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 or provide an accounting), and claims of violations of the Uniform Prudent Investor Act. His clients range from large institutional trust companies, to individual trustees, to charitable institutions that are trust beneficiaries (including foundations and educational institutions).
Mr. Sleeth 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, Mr. Sleeth 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.”
Community Association Representation (Homeowners Associations, Condominium Associations, and Developers)
Mr. Sleeth leads the firm’s Community Association practice group, 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). Mr. Sleeth 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, Mr. Sleeth 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
Mr. Sleeth 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.
Mr. Sleeth 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, Mr. Sleeth has defended over a dozen multi-million-dollar personal injury claims, and a countless number of smaller claims.
Real Estate Litigation
Mr. Sleeth 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, Mr. Sleeth has defended numerous title companies, title agents, and real estate agents in professional liability claims.
Publications and Education
Mr. Sleeth 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, ABA RPTE E-Report, Modern Restaurant Management, USLAW Magazine, Currents, Docket Call, and Consensus), and he has been quoted in Virginia Lawyers Weekly and Common Ground.
Mr. Sleeth 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.
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
- U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
- Virginia State Bar
- Virginia Peninsula Estate Planning Council
- Estate Planning Council of Richmond
- Trust Administrators Council of Richmond
- Williamsburg Bar Association (President)
- American Bar Association (Probate & Fiduciary Litigation Committee, Member)
- Community Associations Institute, Southeastern and Central Virginia Chapters
- WJCC Schools Foundation (Board Member)