John Kelso is a principal with The Van Winkle Law Firm, practicing in the areas of estate and trust planning and administration. Kelso is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and has earned board certification as a specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law from the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization. He has over 20 years of experience helping clients develop wills, trusts, and powers of attorney, often involving complex matters that require charitable trusts, insurance trusts, business succession plans and structured gifts. His clients’ estate planning arrangements may also involve coordination with other members of the firm to develop creative business succession, real estate, and charitable giving plans. Kelso’s work also reflects his understanding that tax savings and sophisticated techniques are usually the means to an end, not an end in themselves. His objective is to help create estate plans that they understand, and that meet the clients’ specific goals. Careful listening, counsel, and attention to detail are as important as the technical aspects of planning.

Practice Areas

Awards & Honors

  • Lawyer of the Year, Asheville Area – The Best Lawyers in America® 2020 – Trusts and Estates
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers – 2013-2020 & 2024
  • Best Lawyers in America – 2011-2020
  • AV Peer-Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell

Awards & Honors

  • Ranked in the Chambers High Net Worth Guide, 2022-2023, Private Wealth Law


  • New York University – Master’s of Law (Taxation), 1997
  • University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Juris Doctor with honors, 1996
  • Davidson College – B.A. (Philosophy), 1992

Professional Affiliations

  • Buncombe County Bar
  • American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)
  • Ethics Committee of the Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, Chairman
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Land of the Sky Estate Planning Council (Former President)
  • North Carolina State Bar, Specialization Committee for Estate Planning & Probate Law, (Former Member & Chairman)
  • Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, (Former Council Member)

John is a motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys riding different bikes, “as long as they are quiet and not too fast.” He and his wife have two sons, one in high school and one in college. John also enjoys CrossFit, hiking and outdoor activities, as well as reading.

  • Favorite Food: Does water count?  How about low-sodium V-8? Chickpeas?
  • Favorite Artists: East Fork Pottery
  • Favorite Music: Local bluegrass in the summer, Asheville Symphony in the winter, and old Jacques Brel recordings any time