February 17, 2008
Where There's A Will
An attorney who had prepared a will for a client that included a substantial bequest to him was reprimanded and suspended for 30 days by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Professed ignorance of the ethical prohibition was no defense. The court found that, save for the will, the conduct of the attorney had been exemplary in his concern for and interaction with the client. This client care was in highest ideals of the legal profession ("he basically met all her needs for sustenance and survival"), for a client described as "stubborn, irascible and occasionally mean-spirited." The will was executed at the time when the client's mental and physical health was failing.
The attorney's share of the estate was $325,000, which he had used for tuition and to pay off his mortgage. He eventually repaid that amount to the estate. One interesting aspect of the sanction is that the attorney is required, for a one-year period, to provide bar counsel with information about all clients over the age of 60. (Mike Frisch)
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