John Cleveland ("Cleve") Hill is an experienced estate planning and probate lawyer who has been recognized by his peers as one of the top trust and estate lawyers in Georgia. He has spoken throughout metropolitan Atlanta at numerous seminars on the topic of wills, trusts, and estates. Cleve has been selected by fellow attorneys statewide for Georgia Trend Magazine's "Legal Elite" in the area of Wills/Estates/Taxes and was selected for inclusion in 2017 and 2018 Super Lawyers "Rising Stars" and 2023 Super Lawyers in the area of Estate Planning. Each year, no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. In June 2013, Cleve was recognized by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce as one of their "10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch".
Cleve began his law practice in 2004 in the bankruptcy and financial restructuring practice at Powell Goldstein, LLP (now Bryan Cave), one of Atlanta's oldest and largest law firms. In joining the then-solo practice of Phill Bettis, Esq. in 2007, Cleve followed his passion for helping others by focusing his practice exclusively in estate planning (Wills, Trusts, charitable planning), probate, guardianship/conservatorships, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, and small business planning and transactions. In 2010, he was joined by Caroline Munroe, Esq. in establishing Bettis, Hill, & Vann, LLC (now Hill & Watchko, LLC) as a premiere wills, trusts, asset protection and wealth/inheritance preservation, and estates boutique practice in north metro Atlanta.
A sixth-generation native of Cherokee County, Georgia, Cleve graduated from Sequoyah High School in 1997 along with his firm colleague, Laura Barron, Esq. He attended Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating magna cum laude in 2001. At Oglethorpe, Cleve served two terms as student body president and received the prestigious James Edward Oglethorpe Cup at graduation-recognition by the faculty of his outstanding performance. He also received the Patillo Leadership Prize, the Charles Longstreet Weltner Award, and was an inaugural recipient of the President's Community Service Award. Cleve graduated cum laude from Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Georgia, in 2004. At Mercer, he served on the Editorial Board of the Mercer Law Review and graduated in the top 10% of his class.
Cleve has remained very active at his undergraduate alma mater serving on the Oglethorpe University Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2022, having previously served from 2007 to 2009 as the young alumni member of the Board. Cleve chaired the Trustee's Campus Life Committee for the 2008-2009 and 2011-2013 academic terms, and chaired Board's the Mission Fulfillment Committee from 2018-2022. He proudly served on the Campaign Steering Committee for the University's I.W. "Ike" Cousins Center for Science and Innovation, a $22 million state-of-the-art science and business facility which opened in the spring of 2019. In addition to his service on Oglethorpe University's Board of Trustees, Cleve served as the President of Oglethorpe's Alumni Association from 2011 to 2013.
Beginning in 2014, Cleve was appointed and began service as a member of the Forsyth County, Georgia Tripartite Committee which governs the County's indigent criminal defense system. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Act Together Ministries, a nonprofit organization focused on serving needy children in the North Metro area. In 2023, Cleve began service on the Board of the Forsyth Unit of the Boys of Girls Clubs of Lanier.
Cleve has proudly given time to prepare estate plans for the Milton Fire and Police first responders and their spouses, and has helped numerous rural clients receive pro bono estate planning services through the Georgia Appleseed program.
Cleve and his family attend church in Cherokee County.
- Mercer University, Walter F. George School of Law, Macon, Georgia
- J.D. - 2004
- Honors: cum laude
- Honors: Graduated in the Top 10% of his Class
- Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia
- B.A. - 2001
- Honors: magna cum laude
- Honors: Student Body President
- Honors: James Edward Oglethorpe Cup
- Honors: Pattillo Leadership Prize
- Honors: Charles Longstreet Weltner Award
- Honors: Inaugural Recipient, President's Community Service Award
- Estate Planning
- Probate and Estate Administration
- Guardianships and Conservatorships
- Fiduciary Litigation
- Small Business Planning and Transactions
- Pre-nuptial and Post-nuptial Agreements
- Asset Protection and Wealth Preservation
- Georgia Super Lawyers Rising Star
- Georgia Trend Legal Elite
- Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce as one of their “10 in 10 Young Professionals to Watch”
- Georgia Super Lawyer
Classes & Seminars
- Estate Planning and Probate 101, The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Atlanta Chapter, 04/24/2019
- Estate Planning in the 21st Century: Family Dynamic Management, Ethical Considerations, Drafting;” presenter/key note speaker; four (4) hour seminar presented to the Trust Services Department for the Georgia Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Destin, Florida, 11/14/2018
- Estate Planning Basics, Oglethorpe University Alumni Association, 04/13/2019
- Pathway to Retirement, Emory University, 11/10/2011 to 02/19/2019
- Estate Planning Update, Oglethorpe University Alumni Association, 04/19/2018
- Estate Planning in 2017 and Beyond, Oglethorpe University Alumni Association, 04/18/2017
- Basic Fiduciary Practice, State Bar of Georgia, 03/27/2015
- Georgia Appleseed Wills Project, 2016 to 2016
- Milton First Responders Wills Project, 2017 to 2018
- Board of Directors for Act Together Ministries
- Georgia Appleseed program
- Forsyth Unit Board, Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier, Member, since 2023
- Jonathan Hawkins, Esq.
- Kevin Tallant, Esq.
- Carson Sears, Esq.
- Chris Brannon, Esq.
- Powell Goldstein LLP (now Bryan Cave), 2004 to 2007
- Bettis Law Group, Associate, 2007 to 2010
- Georgia, 2004
- U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia
- U.S. District Court Middle District of Georgia
- Georgia Court of Appeals
- Supreme Court of Georgia
- Georgia Bar Association, Member, 2004 to Present
- Estate Planning Council of North Georgia, 2008 to Present
- Fiduciary Bar Section - Georgia Bar, Member, 2007 to Present
- Oglethorpe University Board of Trustees, 2011-2022
- Trustee’s Campus Life Committee, Chair, 2008-2009 and 2011-2013 academic terms
- Mission Fulfillment Committee, Chair, 2018-2022
- Campaign Steering Committee for the University’s I.W. “Ike” Cousins Center for Science and Innovation, 2019 to 2019
- Oglethorpe Alumni Association, President, 2011-2013, 2011 to 2013
- Forsyth County, Georgia Tripartite Committee, Member, 2014-2023