Attorney owed duty to non-client beneficiary of trust

by Chris Graham and Joseph Kelly

Chaudhary v. Bartnof, Case No. 3-179/12-0898 (CA Court of Appeals May 22, 2013)

Appellate court reversed trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant attorney on basis that he had no duty to client’s son, the sole beneficiary of a trust. Attorney purportedly negligently advised client to transfer three properties from a trust into a non-existent sub-trust. Client died and client’s second wife claimed a community property interest in the three properties in probate. Client’s son, the sole trust beneficiary, settled the probate action and sued attorney.

The appeals court noted that “It is now well-established that an attorney may be held liable to the beneficiary if: (1) the attorney’s professional negligence frustrates the testamentary intent in a legal instrument, and (2) the ‘beneficiaries clearly designated by the testator lose their legacy as a direct result of such negligence.’”. The court determined that the father intended that the property go to his son and that the son didn’t receive all that he was supposed to receive because of the probate settlement.

Category: Lawyers Malpractice Digest Comment »

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