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James P. Spica

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Estate Planning & Probate Attorney in Southfield, MI

Chalgian & Tripp Law Offices, PLLC
26211 Central Park Blvd., Suite 200
Southfield, MI 48076
Phone: 517-619-1366
Fax: 248-799-9925
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2010 - 2022
Licensed in Michigan Since: 1984
Practice Areas: Estate Planning & Probate, Estate & Trust Litigation
Attorney Profile

James P. Spica is an Estate Planning & Probate attorney at the Chalgian & Tripp Law Offices PLLC in Southfield, Michigan. Mr. Spica’s private client practice focuses on estate planning for high net worth individuals. In addition, much of his practice is dedicated to representing and advising other professionals and institutions, in Michigan and elsewhere, with respect to complex trust planning and litigation.

Mr. Spica is also recognized for his accomplishments in developing trust law, nationally as a Uniform Law Commissioner (assigned to drafting committees for the Uniform Directed Trust Act, the Uniform Fiduciary Income and Principal Act, and the ULC’s Conflict of Laws in Trusts and Estates project) and in Michigan as the principal author of the State’s rule against perpetuities reform and its divided trusteeships and trust decanting statutes. He is the author of numerous articles for national legal publications, a former American Bar Association Advisor to the Uniform Law Commission, a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, Secretary of the Council of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and a Member of the Probate and Estate Planning Advisory Board of the Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education. 

Recognized for his high legal capability and ethical standards, Martindale-Hubbell awarded Mr. Spica the highest available peer review rating of AV Preeminent. He is listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” (“2019 Detroit Lawyer of the Year – Litigation – Trusts and Estates”), “Top Ranked” in the Chambers High Net Worth (HNW) Guide,  and on the “Top Lawyers” list of DBusiness Magazine. He is also a charter member of Leading Lawyers.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Mr. Spica earned his J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He also holds an LL.M. (in Taxation) from New York University School of Law. He clerked for Hon. Richard C. Wilbur on the United States Tax Court (1985) and taught as an Assistant/Associate Professor of Law at the University of Detroit Mercy (1989–2000, tenured 1996). He is qualified to appear before all Michigan state courts.


Practice Areas
  • 60%Estate Planning & Probate
  • 40%Estate & Trust Litigation
Focus Areas

Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration, Will Contests


13 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2010 - 2022

About James P. Spica

First Admitted: 1984, Michigan

Professional Webpage:

Scholarly Lectures/Writings

  • “Two Restatements of Conflict of Laws Concerning Exercises of Special Powers of Appointment,” 55 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 347 (2021) “Another Trap for the Wary: What We Can Learn about the Relation-Back Doctrine from Pennsylvania’s Anti-Delaware-Tax-Trap Statute,” 66 Wayne L. Rev. 483 (2021) “Settlor-Authorized Fiduciary Indifference to Trust Purposes and the Interests of Beneficiaries under the Uniform Trust Code,” 55 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 123 (2020) “Settlor-Authorized Fiduciary Indifference to Trust Purposes and the Interests of Beneficiaries” 45 ACTEC L.J. 73 (2019) “From Strength to Strength: A Comment on Morley and Sitkoff’s ‘Making Directed Trusts Work,’” 44 ACTEC L.J. 215 (2019) “Used Not Only as Directed: Michigan’s Adaptation of the Uniform Directed Trust Act,” 64 Wayne L. Rev. 339 (2019) Michigan Probate Sourcebook (3rd ed. 2018), author of Commentary to the Powers of Appointment Act of 1967, Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities, and Personal Property Trust Perpetuities Act “Rights and Rites: Understanding the Fiduciary Obligations of Designated Funeral Representatives,” 62 Wayne L. Rev. 185 (2017) “Means to an End: Electively Forcing Vesting to Suit Tax Rules Against Perpetuities,” 40 ACTEC L.J. 347 (2014) “Onus Fiduciae Est Omnis Divisa in Partes Tres: A Statutory Proposal for Partitioning Trusteeship,” 49 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 349 (2014) “A Newly Revised Post Perpetuities Reform RAP Applicability Flowchart for Property Subject to Michigan Law,” 59 Wayne L. Rev. 1347 (2014) “Spilt to Last: Longevity Planning for Tax Advantaged Trusts under a New Statutory Decanting Regime in Michigan,” 48 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 35 (2013) “Future Perfect: How Tense and Mood Will Have Declawed the ‘Claw-Back,'” 46 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 475 (2012) Trust Administration Under the Michigan Trust Code (2010 & Supp.), author of Trust Decanting chapter “A Trap for the Wary: Delaware’s Anti-Delaware-Tax-Trap Statute Is Too Clever by Half (of Infinity),” 43 Real Prop. Tr. & Est. L.J. 673 (2009) “A Practical Look at Springing the Delaware Tax Trap to Avert Generation Skipping Tax,” 41 Real Prop. Prob. & Tr. J. 165 (2006) Michigan Estate Planning Handbook (2nd ed. 2006 & Supp., 3rd ed. 2016 & Supp), author of eight chapters “The Rationality of Normative Expectations,” 24 J. Contemp. L. 259 (1998) “Tax Rationality and the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives,” 12 Akron Tax J. 205 (1996) “Federal Transfer Tax Treatment of Actuarial Appreciation,” 42 Drake L. Rev. 123 (1993)

Pro bono/Community Service

  • American Trust for the British Library, Board of Trustees, 2016–Present
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Trustee Emeritus, 2015–Present; Board of Trustees, 2006–2015
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Planned Giving Council, 2015–Present
  • Detroit Institute of Arts, Tannahill Council, 2008–Present
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Legal/Financial Network Advisory Committee, 2007–Present
  • William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, Clements Associates Board of Governors, 2009–Present


  • The Best Lawyers in America “2019 Detroit Lawyer of the Year – Litigation – Trusts and Estates”
  • DBusiness Top Lawyers, 2014–Present
  • Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent rating, the highest possible Peer Review Rating
  • “Top Ranked” Chambers High Net Worth (HNW) Guide 2017–Present
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, 2010–Present
  • Leading Lawyers “Top 10 Trust, Will & Estate Planning – Michigan Edition 2020”

Bar/Professional Activity

  • National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (Uniform Law Commission), Michigan Commissioner (appointed by the State’s bipartisan Legislative Council), 2016–Present; Michigan Legislative Liaison, 2020–Present; Drafting Committee on Conflict of Laws in Trusts and Estates Act, 2020–Present; Drafting Committee on Fundraising through Public Appeals Act, 2018–Present; Drafting Committee on Fiduciary Income and Principal Act, 2017–2018
  • Leading Lawyers, Charter Member, Leading Lawyers Advisor Board, 2013; Trust, Will & Estate Planning Law, 2013–Present; Tax Law: Individual, 2018–Present
  • Best Lawyers in America, Trust & Estates, 2009–Present; Litigation – Trusts & Estates, 2012–Present
  • Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, Probate and Estate Planning Advisory Board
  • Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Current Secretary; Council Member, 2006-2015, 2019–Present; Uniform Law Commission Liaison, 2017–Present; Chair, Fiduciary Income and Principal Act Committee, 2018–Present; Co-Chair, Nonbanking Entity Trust Powers Committee, 2019–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 Drafting Committee, 2008–2011
  • American Bar Association: ABA Advisor, Uniform Law Commission Uniform Directed Trust Drafting Committee, 2014–2016
  • Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
  • Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), Legal Education Committee, 2021–Present; State Laws Committee, 2014–2016, 2021–Present


  • 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 the 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 and 2018) 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; 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

Other Outstanding Achievements

  • Learned Societies: Classical Association of New England; Grolier Club of New York; Johnson Society of London; Selden Society; and Society of Legal Scholars.
  • Hon. Richard C. Wilbur, U.S. Tax Court, Washington, D.C., Law Clerk, 1985; University of Detroit Mercy, Assistant/Associate Professor of Law, 1988-2000 (tenured 1996); Wayne State University, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law, 1987-1988

Representative Clients

  • JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.; PNC Bank, N.A.; Greenleaf Trust; Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan; Collins, Einhorn, Farrell & Ulanoff, PC; Rutledge, Manion, Rabaut, Terry & Thomas, P.C.  

Educational Background

  • LL.M. (in Taxation) from New York University, 1985
  • Interlochen Arts Academy (Academy Scholarship), Class of 1975; University of Michigan, A.B. 1979 (honors college); University of Michigan, Department of Classical Studies, Visiting Scholar, 2000-2001

Industry Groups

  • Trust Banking
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Office Location for James P. Spica

26211 Central Park Blvd.
Suite 200
Southfield, MI 48076

Phone: 517-619-1366

Fax: 248-799-9925

Last Updated: 5/15/2022

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