Wednesday, October 8, 2008
An attorney had represented in a client in a series of matters relating to divorce and child support. While a motion for new trial was pending in the divorce action, the attorney drafted a will for the client that bequeathed $1,000 to the client's minor children and all remaining property to the lawyer, who was appointed to be the personal representative of the estate upon the death of the client. The will was witnessed by the lawyer's paralegal and an employee of a tenant, and notarized by the lawyer's legal assistant. The lawyer later drafted a will that cured the conflict of interest.
The lawyer admitted violation of the rule that prohibits drafted a client's will that makes the lawyer a beneficiary. However, according to the report of an Arizona hearing officer, "Respondent's intent in drafting the first will was not to personally inherit [the client's] property, but to use it for the benefit of [the client's] children..." Thus, the officer finds that a public censure with one year of probation is the appropriate sanction. The lawyer must also obtain and either listen to or review a DVD entitled "The Seven Deadly Sins of Conflict" within 90 days.
Also, the opposing client testified in the bar proceeding in opposition to the agreed disposition in the matter as unduly lenient. (Mike Frisch)