Saturday, June 20, 2009
The South Carolina Supreme Court recently held that an attorney does not owe a duty to a prospective beneficiary under a non-existent will and therefore, the prospective beneficiaries cannot sue the attorney for negligently failing to draft the will. The plaintiffs in the case were prospective beneficiaries under a will that an attorney was supposed to draft, but failed to, before the testator became incapacitated and died intestate. The court distinguished the case from cases in other states where an attorney owes a duty to beneficiaries under an executed will and ruled that imposing a duty to prospective beneficiaries would "wreak havoc" on the attorney's ethical duty of undivided loyalty to the client. Rydde v. Morris, No. 26619 (S.C. Mar. 23, 2009).
Special thanks to Michael Hatfield (Professor of Law, Texas Tech University) and Robert C. Peithman (attorney, South Carolina) for bringing this case to my attention.