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Estate Planning Malpractice

Pursuing and Defending Claims of Estate Planning Malpractice

There are special considerations which come with estate planning. While attorneys typically owe a duty of care to their own clients, in the estate planning context, many jurisdictions will entertain a lawsuit filed by the beneficiaries of the estate. Beneficiaries can include creditors as well as family members. This means that estate planning professionals may find themselves on the receiving end of a malpractice complaint from someone with whom they have no attorney-client relationship. Such beneficiary claims offer both an opportunity for an aggrieved heir or creditor to seek justice as well as a unique hazard for the estate planning lawyer involved.

Courts in some jurisdictions have held that estate planning attorneys owe a duty of care to beneficiaries despite the fact that they are not clients of the attorney. Thus, poorly drafted or vague legal instruments, faulty tax advice, or the failure to adequately explain the range of options available to the decedent can give rise to a claim of malpractice, when the beneficiary is adversely impacted by the errors and omissions of the attorney. Other jurisdictions limit the attorney’s exposure to situations in which their own client’s intentions, as expressed in the will, trust, or other instrument, have been frustrated by the attorney’s negligence, and still other states do not recognize a duty of care on the part of the estate planning professional toward the beneficiaries at all. There are also varying statutes of limitations for the commencement of such claims, and different methods of calculating the damages to which the beneficiary-plaintiff in such cases may be entitled.

When someone believes that they have been harmed by the advice given to a deceased loved one, and thereby deprived of an inheritance, Thorn Law Group can help. The same holds true for the estate planning attorney whose prior guidance is now being questioned. We offer our clients broad expertise in such areas as tax, estate planning and litigation. Our staff is comprised of former IRS attorneys with experience handling cases involving professional responsibility and legal ethics. We can evaluate the case to determine what duty of care applies, which alleged errors are at issue, and what recourse or defenses may be available to the parties.

For a consultation and to learn more about how an estate planning attorney from the Thorn Law Group can help you with your potential malpractice case, contact Kevin E. Thorn, Managing Partner, at ket@thornlawgroup.com, or 703-752-3752.


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