Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When a Testator's Attorney Can Be Liable to a Beneficiary

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In a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled a testator’s attorney could be held liable to a prospective beneficiary for fraudulent misrepresentations. In Spinnato v. Gold-man, 2014 WL 7236343 (D. Mass. Dec. 19, 2014), applying Massachusetts law, the Court distinguished a fraudulent misrepresentation claim, where the case law is unsettled, from a negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty claim, where it is well-settled that a testator’s attorney cannot be held liable to prospective  beneficiaries because the testator’s attorney does not owe a duty of care to prospective  beneficiaries.

The Spinnato decision serves as a forewarning to estate  planning attorneys to “speak up now or forever hold your peace,” as waiting until after the  testator’s death to assert the testator was incompetent or under the undue influence of another  when the testator executed or changed an estate planning document may give rise to an actionable  claim by a beneficiary.

See LeClair Ryan, U.S. District Court for District of Massachusetts Holds Testator’s Attorney Can Be Liable to a Beneficiary, Lexology, Feb. 19, 2015.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2015/02/when-a-testators-attorney-can-be-liable-to-a-beneficiary.html

Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Professional Responsibility | Permalink

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