James P Spica

James P. Spica


Education & Credentials


Interlochen Arts Academy

Academy Scholarship

University of Michigan

honors college

University of Detroit


New York University

LL.M. (in Taxation)

Bar Admission

  • Michigan


  • Best Lawyers in America
    • Trust & Estates, 2009- Present
    • Litigation - Trusts & Estates, 2012- Present
    • The Best Lawyers in America "2019 Detroit Lawyer of the Year - Litigation – Trusts and Estates"
  • Leading Lawyers
    • Charter Member, Leading Lawyers Advisor Board, 2013
    • Trust, Will & Estate Planning Law, 2013 - Present
    • Tax Law: Individual, 2018 - Present
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, 2010- Present
  • "Top Ranked" Chambers 2017-2019 - High Net Worth (HNW) Guide
  • Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent rating, the highest possible Peer Review Rating
  • Dbusiness Top Lawyers, 2014- Present
    • Trusts and Estates

Prominent Assignments

  • Estate and tax planning for private clients requiring sophisticated wealth management
  • Trust banking representations as special counsel in contested proceedings concerning trust instruments and wills and as legislative counsel
  • Expert testimony in trust-administration and tax-planning malpractice defense matters
  • Michigan law reform
    • Drafted “separate trustees” proposal enacted as 2018 Michigan Public Act No. 662
    • Drafted statutory "trust decanting" proposal enacted as 2012 Michigan Public Acts Nos. 483, 484, and 485 
    • Drafted rule against perpetuities reform proposal enacted as the Personal Property Trust Perpetuities Act, 2008 Michigan Public Acts Nos. 148 and 149
    • Testimony (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012) regarding divided and directed trusteeships, trust decanting, and rule against perpetuities reform before Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee and Michigan House Committees on Judiciary and Banking and Financial Services 
  • Private trust company representations
    • Directed formation of, and helped formulate tracking protocols for, large, proprietary pools of measuring lives for reference in instruments exercising special powers of appointment over client trusts grandfathered under the U.S. Treasury's generation skipping transfer tax effective date regulations
    • Created special governance structures designed to avoid attribution of tax sensitive fiduciary powers to stock-holder beneficiaries of client trusts
    • Advice to private trust companies and their owners on securities regulation filings in respect of fiduciary accounts holding concentrated positions in publicly traded securities
  • Representation of grant-making organizations, including company-sponsored foundations, with respect to formation, governance and regulatory compliance
  • Representation of public charities in contested proceedings concerning charitable gifts under trust instruments and wills

Professional Involvement

  • National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (Uniform Law Commission)
    • Michigan Commissioner (appointed by the State’s bipartisan Legislative Council), 2016-Present
    • Fiduciary Income and Principal Act Drafting Committee, 2017-2018
    • Fundraising through Public Appeals Act Drafting Committee, 2018-Present
  • American Bar Association (ABA)
    • ABA Advisor, Uniform Law Commission Uniform Directed Trust Drafting Committee, 2014-2016  
    • Member of ad hoc working committee of Income and Transfer Tax Planning Group of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section that drafted the Section's response (dated September 10, 2012) to Treasury Department’s request (in IRS Notice 2011-101) for comments on the tax implications of trust decanting, 2012
  • American Bar Foundation, Fellow, 2016-Present
    • American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)
      • Fellow, 2013-Present
      • State Membership Committee, 2019-Present
      • State Laws Committee, 2014-2016
    • Council of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan
      • Executive Committee, 2019-Present
        • Member, 2009-2015
        • Uniform Law Commission Liaison, 2017-Present
        • Chair, Fiduciary Income and Principal Act Committee, 2018-Present

        • Special Advisor, Electronic Wills Committee, 2018-Present

        • Chair, Divided and Directed Trusteeship Committee, 2017-2019
        • Chair, Trust Decanting Legislation Committee, 2010-2012
        • Member, Michigan Trust Code Committee, 2008-2011
      • Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), Probate and Estate Planning Advisory Board Member, 2015-Present

      Community Involvement

      • American Trust for the British Library, Board of Trustees, 2016-Present
      • William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Clements Associates Board of Governors, 2009-Present
      • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Legal/Financial Network Advisory Committee, 2007-Present
      • Detroit Institute of Arts, Tannahill Council, 2008-Present
      • Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Planned Giving Council, 2015-Present
      • Interlochen Center for the Arts
        • Trustee Emeritus, 2015-Present
        • Board of Trustees, 2006-2015
        • Harvard Business School’s Governing Nonprofits for Excellence program representative, 2006
      • Grosse Pointe Library Foundation, Board of Directors, 2008-2011
      • The Roeper School, Board of Trustees, 2000-2001
      • Grosse Pointe Academy, Board of Trustees’ Education Policy Committee, 1999-2000


      • Clerk Experience:
        • Hon. Richard C. Wilbur, U.S. Tax Court, Washington, D.C., Law Clerk, 1985
      • Law Teaching:
        • University of Detroit Mercy, Assistant/Associate Professor of Law, 1988-2000 (tenured 1996)
        • Wayne State University, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law, 1987-1988
      • Academic Positions Unrelated to Law:
        • The Roeper School, Adjunct Classics Instructor, 2001-2004
        • University of Michigan, Department of Classical Studies, Visiting Scholar, 2000-2001
      • Learned Societies:
        • Classical Association of New England
        • Grolier Club of New York
        • Johnson Society of London
        • Selden Society
        • Society of Legal Scholars

      Selected Publications

      Selected Presentations

      • “Uniform Directed Trust Act,” ABA Fall Joint Real Property Trust & Estate Law and Tax Law Sections Meeting (forthcoming October 2019), CLE faculty presenter

      • "Special Advanced Session: The Ins and Outs of Powers," 59th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2019), presenter 

      • “Modern Trusteeship under the Uniform Directed Trust Act: Working in Harmony with Directors, Protectors, and Advisors,” ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section 2018 Spring Symposia (May 2018), CLE faculty presenter-panelist
      • "Special Advanced Session: Divided and Directed Trusteeships," 58th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2018), presenter
      • “The Uniform Directed Trust Act: Parsing Fiduciary Authority and Responsibility,” ACTEC Great Lakes Regional Conference (December 2017), CLE faculty presenter-panelist
      • "Clarity and Comfort under the Uniform Directed Trust Act," ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section Professors' Corner webinar (June 2017), presenter-panelist
      • "Special Advanced Session: Jurisprudence for Trust and Estate Lawyers," 57th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2017), presenter
      • "Trust Decanting," ACTEC Great Lakes Regional Conference (December 2015), CLE faculty presenter-panelist
      • “Special Advanced Session: Means to Remote Ends—Designer Vesting to Suit Tax Rules Against Perpetuities” 56th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2016), presenter
      • "Special Advanced Session: Protected, Directed, and Dissected Trusteeships," 55th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2015), presenter
      • "Special Advanced Session: Road Test Results from a Year of Statutory Decanting in Michigan," 54th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2014), presenter
      • "Michigan's New Trust Decanting Rules," Michigan ICLE Seminar (August 2013), presenter
      • "Perpetuities in Estate Planning: Perils and Opportunities for Estate Planners and Fiduciaries at the Confluence of the Common Law, Statutory Reform and Federal Transfer Taxation," North Carolina Bar Association 34th Annual Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law Program (July 2013), featured speaker sponsored by Brown Brothers Harriman Trust Company
      • "Special Advanced Session: Tax Aspects of the Rule Against Perpetuities," 53rd Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2013), presenter
      • "Discretionary Trust Distributions," Midwest Trust and Wealth Management Conference, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio Bankers Associations (October 2012), presenter-panelist
      • "Special Advanced Session: Michigan’s New Decanting Legislation—A Conversation with the Drafter," 52nd Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2012), presenter
      • "Special Advanced Session: Decanting Tax Advantaged Trusts in Michigan," 51st Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2011), presenter
      • "Special Advanced Session: Rule Against Perpetuities; It’s Gone and It Isn’t Gone—An Interactive Session with an Insider," 49th Annual Probate & Estate Planning Institute, Michigan ICLE (May 2009), presenter
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