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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2010-11



NEILL W. SCHOONMAKER, JR.

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board June 25, 2010.

SUMMARY1


In July, 2002 a client directed the respondent to make changes to the Will that the respondent had drafted for him sixteen years earlier, following the death of the clientís wife. The client and his late wife had been represented by the respondent for more than twenty years and by the respondentís father and grandfather for more than sixty years. The services that the respondent and his family had provided had included assistance in managing financial assets. The client expressed a desire to make a bequest to the respondent and his family in consideration for the many years of service that the respondent and his family had provided.

Following the clientís instructions, the respondent drafted a Will that, like the 1986 Will, left the bulk of the estate to charities, but that made changes in the beneficiaries and in the percentages given to each. (The client had no children, but did make small bequests to other relatives.) In addition, the Will contained a provision leaving four percent of the estate to the respondent, his wife, or his children. Although the percentage of the estate was small, the actual value of the bequest was likely to be substantial; after the clientís death, the value of the bequest was seen to be in excess of $350,000.

The respondent promptly presented the Will to his client for execution. The client made hand-written changes to various provisions of the Will, but left the bequest to the respondent unchanged. He then executed the Will in the presence of a notary and witnesses. Two months later, the respondent brought his client a new Will substantially identical to the July Will, but with the hand-written changes typed out. Again the client executed the Will in the presence of a notary and witnesses.

The client died three years later, with the Will still in effect. The respondent presented the Will to the Probate Court and was appointed executor. He took prompt and effective action to administer the estate.

By preparing an instrument under which the respondent or his family received a substantial bequest from a person to whom he was not related, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.8(c). This matter 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 partiesí 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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