Mario Santilli Jr.

Bar/Court Admissions
  • Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • J.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 1983
  • B.A., Economics/Political Science, University of Pittsburgh, 1980

Mario has spent over 30 years helping clients create estate plans aimed at preserving wealth and minimizing death taxes. As a Director of the Firm and Chair of the Estates & Trusts Group, he is experienced in estate planning and administration and Orphans’ Court litigation.


Since 1986, Mario has limited his practice to estate planning, estate administration and Orphans’ Court litigation. From a planning perspective, Mario has prepared estate plans of varying degrees of complexity from basic dispositions to sophisticated plans involving substantial interests in closely held businesses. Mario’s planning experience includes the use of wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, charitable lead and remainder trusts, “defective” grantor trusts and private annuities. In addition, Mario has also made extensive use of family limited partnerships where indicated. From an administrative perspective, he has administered or overseen the administration of estates of varying degrees of complexity from insolvent estates to those whose value exceeded $100,000,000. In the administrative context, Mario’s forte is the complex estate administration that requires tenacious involvement including the actual preparation of all death and income tax returns. In the federal taxation context, Mario has developed a niche in dealing with particularly troublesome issues involving the federal generation-skipping transfer tax including, but not limited to issues pertaining to late and retroactive allocations of GST exemption.

Mario’s Orphans’ Court litigation practice has become an increasingly greater portion of his practice in the past 21 years. He has successfully represented corporate and individual fiduciaries in such matters as accountings, surcharge and removal actions. He has extensive experience in document interpretation matters, reformations of governing instruments and fiduciary representation in tax controversies. Mario has also represented individuals in consenting or defending testamentary instruments and guardianship proceedings.

He was an adjunct professor in the accelerated degree program at Point Park College from 1996-2000. He taught financial and estate planning, as well as business law.

From 1989-1995, he was an associate at Houston, Houston & Donnelly, where he focused on basically the same areas of interest that he is experienced in now.

He was a trust officer at Mellon Bank in 1988 and 1989, focusing on the administration of estates with a value in excess of $1 million and those which included closely held business interests. He worked at Mellon Bank as an estate tax officer from 1986-1989 and was responsible for preparing and reviewing federal estate tax, state death tax, fiduciary income tax and various gift tax returns.

Mario worked for Cooper Lepore and Dreeland as a law clerk from 1980-1983 and as an associate from 1983-1986.

Mario is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Allegheny County Bar Association. He has served as a member of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section for both the PBA and the ACBA.

He was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of Vincentian Academy. In addition, Mario is active as a Eucharist minister in Sts. John and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Franklin Park, Pennsylvania. He previously served as a Eucharist minister at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in Hopewell Township. He also chaired the Finance Committee and was a member of the Parish Council for Our Lady of Fatima.

Mario is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and was selected to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list for Estate Planning and Probate. He is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Trusts and Estates and Trusts and Estates litigation.

Mario is the author of “Changing Estate Planning Concerns in a Challenging Economy,” “Estate Planning for Subsequent Marriages” and “How to Prepare the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return,” which was originally published in 1992 and revised as recently as 2010. He also wrote “A Practical Guide to Estate Administration in Pennsylvania.” He co-authored a chapter entitled “Snowbirds” in Financial and Estate Planning for the Mature Client in Ontario.

Throughout his career, Mario has given countless presentations at seminars for the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Annual Bench-Bar Conference, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the National Business Institute. He is often asked to serve as a course planner.

His seminar topics have included “How to Prepare the Federal Estate Tax Return,” “How to Prepare the Decedent’s Final and the Fiduciary Income Tax Return,” “Litigating Power of Attorney Issues,” “Recent Amendments to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Act,” “Advance Healthcare Directives and Limited Guardianships,” “Orphans Court Litigation,” “Estate Planning for the Owner of a Family Business,” “Fundamentals of Estate and Trust Administration” and “Estate Planning for Subsequent Marriages” among other issues.

Mario’s input has been sought by publications, such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, which included his comments in a story entitled “Proper Estate Planning Can Help Families Avoid Asset Dispute.”