So, ask yourself:
Was a Trust prepared by a lawyer who obtained additional fees in addition to the fees originally paid for setting up the Trust?
Do you feel you were overcharged for these additional fees by the lawyer?
Do you think the attorney took fees for an amount with which you disagree?
Did the attorney change the fee agreement to a contingent fee from an hourly after he completed his work?
Did the lawyer take an interest in Trust property?
Did the lawyer take attorney fees from the Trust without Court approval?
Did the lawyer take attorney fees based on tax savings?
Did the attorney provided an estate plan or Trust where the lawyer is the Trustee or owner of an interest in property held by the Trust?
Did the lawyer provide referrals to advisers that caused financial harm (damages)?
A breach of fiduciary duty to the Trust occurs when the lawyer takes an unjustified or unauthorized fee or obtains an interest in the Trust's property. If the lawyer takes an interest in the Trust property he must do so by first advising the Trustee and beneficiaries to seek separate counsel. If there is a dispute about the disposition of Trust property, the lawyer's actions, or the Trustee's actions, instructions from the Court to protect the Trust and its beneficiaries should be acquired.
A breach of fiduciary duty may occur when the lawyer changes the terms of the fee agreement without first advising the Trustee to seek separate counsel.
Sometimes lawyers seek contingent fees from an Estate or Trust for tax savings after the lawyer has already done the tax savings work under an hourly or flat fee agreement.
Arizona legal malpractice
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Trusts and Estates and Legal Malpractice
Many clients, Trustees and beneficiaries of the Trust think of lawyer malpractice as when an attorney acts negligently by failing to prepare the proper documents, incorrectly designating beneficiaries, or by giving bad advice. Negligence can also occur by referring the Trustee to a investment adviser or tax adviser, like a financial planner or a CPA, who causes the Trust and its beneficiaries financial harm (damages).
But attorney malpractice also includes the breach of fiduciary duty.
A breach of fiduciary duty can occur when a lawyer takes advantage of his position of trust with the client or fails to provide material (important) information to the Trustee and the Trust beneficiaries. A lawyer for the Trustee is required to advise Trust beneficiaries that the lawyer does not represent the beneficiaries. The purpose of the advice is so the beneficiaries have the opportunity to obtain independent advice.
If you answered yes to any one of these questions you may be victim of attorney malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty by the lawyer. We can answer your questions about lawyer malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty.
Call the Law Officers of Stanley R. Lerner, P.C. at 602-279-3400 for a consultation about the answers to your questions and your concerns regarding your Trust and if your lawyer breached his fiduciary duty. Because of the complexity of lawyer malpractice in Arizona involving legal issues of Trust and Estates there is a consultation fee.