Friday, May 17, 2013
A lawyer's duty to beneficiaries
Posted by Lynne Butler
Generally speaking, there is no responsibility from the lawyer to the disappointed beneficiary, but that's not always the case.
Usually if a lawyer drafts a will for Mr. Smith, the lawyer's responsibility is to make sure that he or she makes a will that properly reflects Mr. Smith's wishes. As long as the lawyer does that, it's not the lawyer's problem if someone expected to inherit something from Mr. Smith, but did not. Things change when the lawyer fails to prepare a will according to what Mr. Smith wanted.
It happens. In fact earlier today I met with clients whose current will sets up a spousal trust with a gift over to specific beneficiaries. I asked why they chose to do that. They replied that they had never wanted a spousal trust and didn't even realize that was in the will. This could have been a problem for the drafting lawyer if the error had not been discovered in time to change it.
I'm attaching a very good article from lawyer Chris Staples in which he reviews a recent case from Ontario that dealt with the issue of the lawyer's responsibility to beneficiaries. Click here to read it.