Do estate planning attorneys make mistakes and/or engage in egregious violations of legal ethics? Since no attorney is a saint (though some can argue they are), the answer is that, yes, attorneys do sometimes engage in bad conduct.
This is the story of Linda Nell Lowney, an estate planning attorney facing disbarment who was 54 in 2005, and married a man thirty years older, Thor Tollefsen, under a confidential marriage license and presumably for his money, reports the ABA Journal.
Aside from the $340,000 Thor Tollefsen had in his bank account, he wasn’t exactly the best candidate for husband. He used a walker and had terminal cancer and emphysema. But Linda Nell Lowney married him anyway and then allegedly misappropriated his funds. She could do this because she was listed as his fiduciary.
In the eyes of the State of California, she may have committed an act of “moral turpitude” (not to be confused with mortal turpitude, which may sound similar but might be worse). Although Lowney had a clean record for 32 years of practice, the bar found that she took financial advantage of a sick, elderly client.
Now disbarment is being considered.
So, all of you out there who are elderly, or know someone of advanced age with a lot of money, be sure to you understand the rights and responsibilities of both clients and attorneys. Most New York City estate planning attorneys maintain the highest degree of professionalism and conduct, and all have to undergo a rigorous background check and evaluation before being able to become licensed attorneys. Nevertheless, sometimes even the attorneys with the cleanest records slip up.