Mass.gov
   
Mass.Gov home Mass.gov  home get things done agencies Search Mass.Gov


Commonwealth of Massachusetts

NO. BD-2005-092

IN RE: BURTON H. KLEINFELD

S.J.C. Order of Term Suspension entered by Justice Cordy on April 2, 2007.1

SUMMARY2

The respondent was suspended from the practice of law for one year and one day for his neglect of two unrelated probate matters, his failure to respond to inquiries concerning the estates, his failure to cooperate with bar counselís investigation into these matters, and his failure to comply with a court order of administrative suspension.

In the first matter, the respondent drafted estate planning documents, which included a will and a restatement of a trust, both of which were executed by the testator in 1998. Under the will, the respondent was the named executor and the testatorís daughter was the sole beneficiary and the named successor executor. The respondent was also the named successor trustee of the trust, the appointment to commence when the testator, the initial trustee, was no longer able to serve.

Following the death of the testator in 2003, the respondent took no steps to commence the probate of the will, and he did not petition for appointment as executor. From July 2003 until late 2005, the daughter repeatedly attempted to reach the respondent to determine the location of the original will and the status of the probate of the will. The respondent did not respond to any of the inquiries by the daughter or by counsel retained by her in 2005.

In September 2005, counsel for the daughter, on the assumption that the respondent had retained the original will, petitioned the probate court to order the respondent to deliver the original will to the court. The court granted the petitionerís request, and in October 2005, the respondent was served with an order to produce the original will. The respondent never produced the original will or responded in any way to the courtís order. Eventually, counsel filed a petition with the court to probate a copy of the will and for the appointment of the daughter as successor executor which was allowed.

The respondentís failure to commence the probate of the will, his failure to petition the court for appointment as executor or seek to decline as executor, his failure to accept the office of successor trustee of the trust or to decline as successor trustee, and his failure to respond to the inquiries of the daughter and her counsel about the matter constitute violations of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2(a), 1.3, and 1.4(a). The respondentís failure to comply with the probate courtís order to produce the original will or, in the alternative, to object to the courtís order constitutes a violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(c) and 8.4 (d) and (h).

In the second matter, in April 2002, a client retained the respondent to represent her in connection with administering the estate of her grandmother. In September 2002, the probate court allowed the will and appointed the client administrator with the will annexed. Thereafter, the respondent prepared an inventory and filed it with the probate court but did not provide the client with a copy. After filing the inventory, the respondent did not complete the administration of the estate. In December 2004, the respondent advised the client that he would provide her with a copy of the inventory and all of the other documents that he had filed in connection with the administration of the estate, but he never provided her with any copies.

In January 2005, the client wrote the respondent asking him to provide her with the requested copies, but the respondent never replied. In April 2005, the client discharged the respondent and requested a final invoice, a withdrawal of his appearance, and her file. The respondent never replied. In May and June 2005, the client again wrote the respondent and requested that he withdraw and return the file to her. The respondent did not reply. In June 2005, successor counsel wrote the respondent and requested that he withdraw and return the file. Again, the respondent did not reply.

The respondentís failure to complete the administration of the estate and his failure to respond to the clientís requests for information violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.2 (a), 1.3, and 1.4. The respondentís failure to withdraw upon discharge and his failure to return the file and provide a final invoice violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(a)(3), (d), and (e).

The respondent failed to cooperate with bar counselís investigations into both of these matters. The respondentís failure to respond to bar counselís inquires in the first matter resulted in his administrative suspension from the practice of law on November 28, 2005. The respondent thereafter did not seek reinstatement or otherwise comply with the order of administrative suspension and the requirements of Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, ß 17.

The respondentís failure to cooperate with bar counselís investigations in these matters and to comply with the court order of administrative suspension violated Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, ßß 3 and 17 and Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(d), (g), and (h).

Bar counsel filed a petition for discipline on November 10, 2006. Because the respondent failed to file an answer, the charges were deemed admitted pursuant to ß 3.15(e) of the Rules of the Board of Bar Overseers. On February 12, 2007, the Board voted to recommend to the Supreme Judicial Court that the respondent be suspended for a period of one year and one day. On April 2, 2007, the Court so ordered.


1 The complete Order of the Court is available by contacting the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

2 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.



BBO/OBC Privacy Policy. Please direct all questions to webmaster@massbbo.org.
© 2005. Board of Bar Overseers. Office of Bar Counsel. All rights reserved.