Katherine M. Cunningham

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Katherine M. Cunningham

Katherine M. Cunningham is a firm shareholder and established the Trusts & Estates practice at Sonnenberg & Cunningham, Ltd. Katherine focuses her practice on estate planning and estate administration for high net worth individuals and families.  She advises clients throughout the planning process, including preparation of wills, revocable trusts, gift trusts, insurance trusts, and powers of attorney.  Katherine works with clients, their families and their advisors to develop a plan to transfer financial assets and manage their legacy.

Katherine has developed an expertise in working with clients to achieve their personal estate planning goals in a manner to minimize estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes.  A significant part of Katherine’s practice is advising clients with respect to lifetime gifts, including gifts to take advantage of the annual exclusion from gift tax and lifetime gift tax exemption.  For example, Katherine has frequently prepared dynasty trusts and grantor trusts for families to transfer assets to children and other family members.  For clients with closely held business interests, Katherine has developed gifting programs to transfer those interests in a manner to meet business succession goals and to pass along the family investment philosophy to the next generation.

In addition to estate planning, Katherine has substantial experience assisting families through the probate process, and she has handled large and complicated estates with closely held business interests and international assets.  She has supervised the preparation of gift and estate tax returns, and regularly works with family members, accountants and investment advisors to transfer assets in an organized and thoughtful manner after death.

Because many high net worth clients have charitable goals, Katherine has experience helping families to set up donor-advised funds, establish charitable lead trusts and charitable remainder trusts, and organize and operate private foundations.  Also, Katherine has assisted clients to establish new public charities, restructure existing charitable organizations and comply with ongoing reporting requirements with the IRS and state authorities.

In 2011, Katherine was recognized as a “Rising Star” in estate planning and estate administration by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine. Prior to joining Sonnenberg & Cunningham, Katherine was a partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown LLP and she started her practice as an associate with Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  Currently, Katherine is based in the Naples, Florida office of Sonnenberg & Cunningham Ltd.


  • Northwestern University School Of Law, J.D., 1999
  • Williams College, B.A. Cum Laude , 1995


  • Member of the Collier County Women’s Bar Association
  • Legislative Lead, Naples Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America


  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Florida State Bar Association

Awards & Honors

  • Illinois Super Lawyers, Rising Star, 2011

Speeches & Publications

  • Tax Year In Review, Trusts & Estates Magazine, January 2007
  • Tax Year in Review, Trusts & Estates Magazine, 2006
  • Advantages to Back-Loading: An Analysis of Back-Loaded Annuity Payments from a CLAT or RPM Annuity Trust, Tax Management Estates, Gifts and Trusts Journal, November 2004
  • The Service Upholds Power of Appointment as Method to Fully Utilize Estate Tax Exemption, Trusts & Estates Newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association, October 2004

  • Insurance in Estate Planning, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, March 2010


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