September 24, 2012
High Drama, No Discipline
The Maryland Court of Appeals dismissed a petition charging misconduct against an attorney who
...acting on his own behalf, filed incomplete forms in the probate court of another state in an effort to be appointed administrator of his late father's estate so that he could "smoke out" a will that he suspected his stepmother might be concealing, [and] delayed carrying out his duties as administrator until the will was produced...
The court notes that the record of the hearing "revealed a virtual soap opera of alleged infidelity, divorce, estrangement, lawsuits, murder accusations, and other high drama within the [attorney's] family..."
The complainant was the attorney's stepmother, an attorney who was more than 30 years younger than the attorney's father. The father had divorced the attorney's mother after more than 50 years of marriage. He died in June 2002.
There ensued "various squabbles" between the stepmother and children over the obituary, an autopsy, and the funeral. The stepmother did not file a new will (the family had a 1952 will that left the estate to the attorney's mother) and did not respond to an inquiry from counsel.
The attorney opened an estate to force disclosure of the suspected most recent will.
The court found here that his conduct was not dishonest and caused no real harm. The stepmother replaced the attorney as administrator, filed the last will and the estate was "fully resolved."
Disclosure: I prosecuted this attorney for misconduct in the District of Columbia. He was suspended for 60 days for altering a hospital record. The case is reported at 692 A.2d 1351 (D.C.1997) (Mike Frisch)
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