Richard A. Johnson

For nearly 30 years, large family-owned and closely held businesses, high net worth individuals, family offices including their private family trust companies, and tax-exempt organizations have sought out Richard Johnson to provide practical tax, business, and estate and trust planning solutions.

Family-owned businesses, high net worth individuals, tax-exempt organizations, and large closely-held companies, rely on Richard to provide practical tax and business planning solutions. Clients benefit from Richard's vast experience with S-corporations, LLCs, private trust companies, and partnership law which, when combined with strategic tax planning, helps minimize corporate and personal tax liabilities on both the state and federal levels.

Richard organizes and advises private family trust companies in Nashville, Tennessee. He formed the first private family trust company under Tennessee law and has been responsible for forming more than half of Tennessee's private family trust companies. He drafted new legislation updating Tennessee’s private trust company law, which greatly expanded the definition of a private family trust company to make Tennessee’s private trust company statutes more attractive than those in other states.  The updated law now provides the family the option to allow the family’s business to own the private trust company as a wholly owned subsidiary.

Richard works with wealthy individuals, families, and their family offices to structure their assets and ownership interests to ensure security and financial stability. He does so by protecting and retaining wealth through sophisticated strategic planning related to:

  • Estate taxes
  • Generation-skipping transfer taxes
  • Gifting
  • Income taxes
  • Trusts

Clients appreciate his understanding of family dynamics—and the unique challenges families encounter—and have confidence in his ability to protect their wealth by applying common sense solutions.

In this interview, Richard discusses his work with private trust companies, when a private trust company is an appropriate choice for a family, and why Tennessee is a preferred forum for setting up a private trust company.

Owners of large, closely-held companies in a broad range of industries also seek Richard's advice on entity restructuring and transition plans, including management team succession, to fulfill long-range goals and help ensure the smooth transition of ownership and operation from one generation to the next.

A trusted advisor to 501(c)(3) and other tax exempt entities, Richard helps them structure fundraising activities to avoid unrelated business taxable income, create agreements between tax exempt and for profit entities, and address governance issues related to non-profit founders.

Leadership and Recognitions

Richard was one of only three attorneys in Tennessee to receive a top ranking (Band 1) in the 2018 edition of the Chambers High Net Worth Guide. He is a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and serves on the Family Office Exchange's Thought Leaders Council. Richard has been recognized since 2001 by Best Lawyers in America for his experience in Tax Law and Trusts & Estates. Best Lawyers named him Nashville's Lawyer of the Year in Tax Law in 2017 and 2015, and in 2012 the publication honored Richard as Nashville Lawyer of the Year in Trusts and Estates. Richard has served as Chairman of the Tax Sections of both the Tennessee Bar Association Tax and the Nashville Bar Association. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Nashville Bar Foundation, and he is recognized as a "Mid-South Super Lawyer."  


  • Formed the first family private trust company in Tennessee
  • Drafted Private Trust Company legislation enacted in 2013, revising Tennessee's Private Trust Company law
  • Gave testimony to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee with regard to possible new regulations and Reforms aimed at curbing abuses in the management of not-for-profit organizations
  • Successfully represented the State of Tennessee in its efforts to return the $100 million Maddox Foundation to Tennessee after its controversial move to Mississippi
  • Chaired the Tennessee Bar Association's Nonprofit Corporate Law Revision Committee
  • Assisted in drafting legislation for the Tennessee Revised Limited Liability Company Act enacted in 2005, as a former member of the Tennessee Bar Association's committee


  • Member, Family Office Exchange 
    • Member, Thought Leaders Council
  • Member, Nashville, Tennessee, Florida and American Bar Associations
  • Member, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
  • Fellow, Nashville Bar Foundation
  • Former Treasurer, Tennessee Bar Association
  • Member, Tax Section of the American Bar Association
  • Member, Probate Trust and Real Property Section of the American Bar Association
  • Co-author of The Tennessee Chapter, ABA Property Tax Handbook
  • Former Director, Nashville Estate Planning Council
  • Former Chairman, Tax Section of the Tennessee Bar Association
  • Former Chairman, Committee of the Tax Section of the Nashville Bar Association
  • Former co-author, Tennessee Chapter, ABA Sales & Use Handbook
  • Commentator and lecturer at various tax seminars


  • J.D., with honors, University of Tennessee, 1986
  • LL.M., University of Florida, Taxation, 1987
  • B.A., cum laude, University of Mississippi, Accounting, 1983

Legal Services

Bar Admissions

  • Tennessee
  • Florida

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Tax Court
  • U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee

Up Close

Richard enjoys spending time with his family, and participating in outdoor activities that include hunting, fishing, and golf. He has also run several half marathons, and competed in an Olympic distance triathlon.