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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2002-24



RICHARD E. MANELIS

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board September 18, 2002.

SUMMARY1


On May 1, 1993, an individual retained the respondent to draft a will for his father (hereinafter father and son respectively). The respondent had never represented the father or the son prior to this date. The son advised the respondent what the provisions of the will should be. The respondent prepared the will in accordance with the sonís directions and provided the son with a copy to review with the father. At the sonís direction, the respondent went to the sonís home on May 1, 1993 for the execution of the will by the father. The son and the two witnesses to the will were present when the respondent first met the father and the will was executed at that time. The respondent did not meet separately with the father to discuss the will prior to its execution. In this will, which revoked a prior will, the father left his entire estate to the son. The prior will divided the estate equally between the son and his brother.

At the time of the willís execution, the father had been living with the son for approximately five months and was receiving hospice care due to metastatic prostate cancer. The father died on May 4, 1993 at the age of 74. Following the fatherís death, the brother who had been disinherited by the will prepared by the respondent, filed objections to the allowance of the will. On August 21, 1995, the son and his brother executed a stipulation acknowledging that the fatherís prior will, dividing the estate equally between them, would control. The stipulation further provided that the issue of undue influence regarding assets that the father had allegedly gifted to the son just prior to his death while he was living with the son, had not been resolved. On March 15, 1996, following further litigation, both the son and his brother executed a final settlement of all issues.

The respondentís drafting a will for the father at the direction of the beneficiary son, and the respondentís causing the will to be executed without first discussing the matter separately with the father, was a conflict of interest in violation of Canon Five, DR 5-105(A). The respondentís drafting a will for the father and causing the will to be executed, without first conducting a reasonable investigation into the competency of the father, was inadequate preparation and failure to represent his client zealously, in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(2), and Canon Seven, 7-101(A)(1).

The respondent had no prior discipline. Further, although the respondent paid insufficient attention to the conflict of interest between the father and son and the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will, he had no prior relationship with the son who retained him and had no significant personal or financial interest in the situation other then the modest fees received for drafing the will.

This mater came before the Board on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by public reprimand. The Board accepted the parties' recommendation and imposed a public reprimand.

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



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