Trial court staff lawyers may draft family wills

first_img Trial court staff lawyers may draft family wills June 15, 2003 Regular News Trial court staff lawyers may draft family willscenter_img A trial court staff attorney may draft a will for his or her stepparent if the staff lawyer is not a beneficiary, according to the Florida Trial Court Staff Attorneys Association Ethics Advisory Committee.The Ethics Advisory Committee is charged by the association with rendering advisory opinions to staff attorneys that interpret the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and other relevant authorities to specific circumstances confronting or affecting staff attorneys. Its opinions are advisory only.The committee said Canon 5G of the Judicial Code of Conduct states that “[a] judge may act pro se and may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family” and Bar Rule 4-1.8(c) states that “[a] lawyer shall not prepare an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer as parent, child, sibling, or spouse any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, except where the client is related to the donee.”The committee said those authorities recognize the exceptions to the general prohibitions against judges practicing law or rendering legal advice, and, accordingly, these same exceptions to the general prohibitions apply to staff attorneys.“Therefore, this committee concludes that the inquiring staff attorney may draft legal documents, including a will for his or her stepparent, which bequeaths gifts to the staff attorney’s biological parent and step-siblings, as long as it is done without compensation,” the panel saidOne committee member noted that the drafting of this will for the step-parent may increase the chance that other family members will allege bias or coercion on the part of the staff attorney or otherwise contest the will. Similarly, another committee member would caution the inquiring staff lawyer to consider the issues of avoiding exposure to liability and participation in matters likely to come before the court, especially if the staff attorney is assigned to the Probate Division. (Opinion Number: 2003-01)For more information contact E. Ashley Hardee, chair, Florida Trial Court Staff Attorneys Association Ethics Advisory Committee, Moore Justice Center, 2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera 32940, (321) 617-7328, or at [email protected] flcourts18.org.last_img

Leave your comment