Don't Play with Fire: Lawyers Are Not Immortal - So Estate Planning Is a Necessity

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Several years ago, a lawyer in Maine died suddenly, and his estate went through probate. The estate was sued for malpractice because the plaintiff/former client was injured. Her matter was lost because of the passage of a statutory time limit that occurred subsequent to the lawyer's death. The court ruled that the lawyer's estate was liable. The lawyer should have known that death was possible (even though he had been in good health until then) and taken steps to protect his clients in the event that tragedy struck. He failed to have an estate plan for his law practice, his client was injured as a result and his estate was therefore liable for damages.

I recently learned of a related story in my home state. The widow of a California attorney sought to work through the problem of closing her husband's practice after his death. He had not given her any direction prior to his death and had no written instructions for her to follow. She found little information or assistance through the state bar and ended up hiring a practice management attorney who cost a great deal of money and provided unsatisfactory service. The practice ultimately was closed, but the process was difficult and stressful for her.

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