J. Donald Cairns, Esq.

J. Donald Cairns, Esq.: Attorney with Schneider Smeltz Spieth Bell LLP AV stamp icon
Attorney Awards


Don Cairns has concentrated his practice in trusts and estates for more than forty years. He became a Director and Shareholder at Spieth, Bell, McCurdy & Newell in July of 1995, after having been a partner for many years at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, a large multi-national Cleveland-based firm. Spieth, Bell, McCurdy & Newell Co., L.P.A. became Schneider Smeltz Spieth Bell LLP in 2016, as two of the oldest and most established law firms in Cleveland combined.

Mr. Cairns has implemented many sophisticated estate plans, involving individuals at all ranges of personal net worth, from over $1 billion dollars to modest net worth. He prepares wills, trust agreements, and other estate planning documents. He also advises in the administration of trusts and estates including the preparation of federal and state estate tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns.

His practice also includes preparing and serving as trustee of charitable lead and remainder trusts, private foundations, complex multi-generation trusts, and marital deduction and "by-pass" trusts. He has also had experience in estate and trust investment performance analysis.

Mr. Cairns has served as an expert witness in trust and estate matters, including conflicts of interest among multiple clients, legal malpractice in estate planning, trustee distribution issues, and trustee investment diversification issues such as the Ruth Lilly Charitable Trust litigation described at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/10190602jgb.pdf.

He is a member of the Ohio and Florida Bars. He is certified in Ohio as a Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law, and in Florida as a Board Certified Estate Planning and Probate lawyer emeritus. He received his A.B. degree from Harvard College and his J.D. degree from The Ohio State University College of Law. He is a member of The Order of the Coif and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Ohio State Law Journal.

Mr. Cairns has spoken at estate planning programs for the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, Heckerling Estate Planning Institute, Cleveland Estate Planning Institute, Notre Dame Estate Planning Institute, Cleveland Regional Tax Institute, and various Estate Planning Councils. He also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Heckerling Estate Planning Institute from 1992 to the present. Designated Best Lawyer in America (more than 20 year period). Fellow: American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (Member of its Estate and Gift Tax Committee, and a past member of its Board of Regents and its Technology Committee).

Fellow, American College of Trust & Estate Counsel

Ohio State Bar Association, Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law

Areas of Practice (9)

  • Trusts and Trust Administration
  • Fiduciary Representation
  • Estate Planning
  • Probate and Estate Administration
  • Tax and Planning
  • Charitable Planning and Giving
  • Trust and Probate
  • Real Property Law
  • Taxation

Education & Credentials

Contact Information:
(216) 696-4200, ext. 1011  Phone
(216) 696-7303  Fax
University Attended:
Harvard College, A.B., 1952
Law School Attended:
The Ohio State University, J.D., 1958
Year of First Admission:
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio; U.S. Tax Court; 1974, Florida; 1958, Ohio; U.S. Supreme Court
American Bar Association
Ohio Bar Association
Florida Bar Association
Cleveland Metrpolitan Bar Association
( Ohio State Bar Association, Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law )
Payment Information:
  • Credit cards accepted
  • Accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover

Peer Reviews

4.6/5.0 (2 reviews)
A Martindale-Hubbell Peer Rating reflects a combination of achieving a Very High General Ethical Standards rating and a Legal Ability numerical rating.
  • Legal Knowledge

  • Analytical Capability

  • Judgment

  • Communication

  • Legal Experience

  • 5.0/5.0 Rated by a Partner on 07/02/14 in Estate and Gift Taxation

    Please remove the other rating that was prepared for Mr. Cairns. It was done in error.

    Please remove the other rating that was prepared for Mr. Cairns. It was done in error. Read less

    Read less
  • 1.2/5.0 Rated by a Partner on 07/02/14 in Estate Planning

*Peer Reviews provided before April 15, 2008 are not displayed.

Cleveland, Ohio

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