Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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.