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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

PUBLIC REPRIMAND NO. 2000-10



IN RE: JAMES J. TONER

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board August 31, 2000.

SUMMARY1


In July 1998 the respondent drafted a will for an elderly Connecticut resident who was a family friend and godmother to two of the respondent's children. The testator had a second home on Cape Cod, where the respondent resides and where the will was drafted and executed.

The will included bequests of $50,000 to each of the testator's two sisters, $10,000 to her great nephew, $15,000 to each of the respondent's three children, and the remainder to the respondent and his wife. The testator also named the respondent executor of her estate. In a prior, 1986 will the testator had left her entire estate to relatives and nothing to the respondent or any member of his family.

The testator died in March 1999. The respondent presented her will for probate in Connecticut in April 1999. Several of the testator's relatives objected to the will. Following a trial by the Bristol Probate Court in Bristol, Ct., the respondent's petition for probate was denied on the grounds that the respondent had failed to meet his burden of proof that he had not exercised undue influence on the testator, and that he had violated Rule 1:8 of the Ct. R. Prof. C. The respondent did not appeal the judge's findings. The testator's 1986 will was admitted to probate, and the testator's sister was named executrix.

The respondent's conduct in drafting a will for a non-relative which made a substantial gift to the respondent, his wife, and his three children violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.8(c).

The matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on an agreed recommendation for discipline by public reprimand based on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations. On August 14, 2000 the Board of Bar Overseers voted to administer a public reprimand to the respondent.

1 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record of proceedings before the Board.



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