Monday, February 10, 2014

Friendship Not Enough

The Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board has reprimanded two attorneys in a matter that dealt with the meaning of the phrase "individual with whom the lawyer maintains a close familial relationship" exception to the rule that generally forbids an attorney to prepare an instrument that gives a substantial gift to the lawyer or the lawyer's relatives.

The board's letter of admonition states

The Board believes that step-children and a domestic partner would be obvious examples of persons with whom the lawyer maintains a "close familial relationshipfor purposes of the [Iowa rule]. The Board further believes, however, that close familial relationship and close friendship are not synonymous. If the drafters of the ABA Model Rule 1.8(c) - had wanted close friendship by itself to be an excetion to the rule, they would have said so.

The two attorneys practiced in the same firm. One attorney had prepared the instrument from which the attorney benefitted.

The beneficary's mother and brother were "quite close" to the testator and were already beneficiaries from an earlier will. The attorney, by contrast, did not have a longtime friendship with the testator. He received a $75,000 bequest, which he later disclaimed.

The letters may be accessed through this link. The attorneys are Timothy Klima and william Hochstetler. (Mike Frisch)

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