He was an accomplished attorney, family man and active member in the Asheville community
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (November 19, 2012) – The Van Winkle Law Firm attorney Brian F. D. Lavelle, one of the most highly regarded trusts and estates attorneys in North Carolina, died at his home in Biltmore Forest yesterday, Sunday, November 18, 2012. He was 71.
Lavelle was a senior principal and practiced with The Van Winkle Law Firm for more than 45 years. He was a Fellow, Regent, former State Chairman and lecturer of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and was Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization.
“Brian was an outstanding lawyer, extremely well informed and a major contributor to the vitality of our firm, especially in his chosen field of tax, estate and trust practice,” said firm president Philip J. Smith.
“We will also remember him as a patient and good humored friend, a devoted family man and a generous giver of his time and talent in service to our local community and to the legal profession throughout and beyond North Carolina,” added attorney Roy Davis.
Lavelle spent his career at The Van Winkle Law Firm as a counsellor at law applying sophisticated legal tools developed for complex estates and assets. He routinely planned and administered estates of substantial value. He handled numerous tax controversies before the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Tax Court and federal courts. He served as a lecturer on continuing legal education for the North Carolina Bar Foundation, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the Wake Forest University Estate Planning Institute, the Hartford Tax Institute and the Duke University Estate Planning Institute. He was a regular contributor to professional journals.
Lavelle had an innate ability to create lasting relationships. By working closely with his clients, he customized and tailored estate plans and advised on taxation issues for highly successful individuals and business owners. On several matters, he worked with three generations of the same family. He provided counsel for minors, disabled and special needs beneficiaries and assisted executors and trustees in administrative matters.
“Although I wasn’t able to practice with Brian for as long as many in the firm, he taught me many important lessons,” said attorney James W. Baley. “He valued personal relationships with his clients, coworkers and members of the broader community. On a regular basis, he would hand deliver documents and meet clients at their homes. He was truly a family lawyer.”
“Brian has been a valued friend and partner since 1970,” said attorney Larry S. McDevitt. “He was the epitome of what every lawyer should aspire to be: intelligent, thoughtful, professional and attentive to his client’s needs. He was also the epitome of a true friend: loyal, devoted and caring. Brian was a person without malice or prejudice. He was the personification of love that lives on in his family and will be cherished forever by his friends, law partners and clients.”
Throughout the last four decades, Lavelle served on various legal boards and committees. He was a distinguished member of the North Carolina Bar Association serving twice on the Board of Governors. He was a member of committees on estate planning and probate law for the North Carolina State Bar and was involved with the American Bar Association Section of Taxation.
“We worked closely together for 39 years. I certainly lost a long time friend, a traveling buddy and someone I could go to and talk about practice questions, people questions, tax questions,” said attorney Barry B. Kempson. “He was remarkable in dealing with tax issues. He had an intuitive knowledge of what the answer ought to be. He would pull out a well-thumbed copy of the Internal Revenue Code from his days at N.Y.U. and he could promptly put his finger on the answer.
“He excelled at being a good father, husband and family man. I always looked at Brian and said that’s someone to emulate,” Kempson said.
As an undergraduate, Lavelle studied economics at the University of Virginia then earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University. He continued his studies at New York University earning a Master of Laws in Taxation. Lavelle also served as a J.A.G. officer in the U.S. Air Force.
In addition to his legal practice, Lavelle was an active member of the community serving on the boards of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and Asheville Country Day School (now Carolina Day School) and the advisory board for the Salvation Army. He was a member of the Rotary Club and the Royal Rhododendron Brigade of Guards. Lavelle was also a member of All Saints Episcopal Church, Waccamaw, in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.
Lavelle counted among his passions traveling, trains, ships and food. With his wife, Sara, he traveled the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul and crossed oceans around the world. He was an epicurean and charcutier.
“He was a wonderful partner,” said attorney Albert L. Sneed, Jr. “Behind the stern veneer of his legal mind, he was a sweet, gentle and humble soul.”
Lavelle is survived by his wife, Sara Hill Lavelle; three children, Francis Lavelle, Jr. and his wife, Junestka, of Marietta, Georgia, Lisa Bowen and her husband John, of Asheville and Katy Simpson and her husband, Joel, of Richmond, Virginia; seven grandchildren, Brian the 3rd, Sam, Lilianna, Oliver, Alessa, Peter and Michael. Also surviving are Lavelle’s sister, Kathleen Heffernan and brother, Neal Lavelle, both of Cleveland, Ohio and nieces and nephews.
Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family with memorials.