Salt Lake City, UT asked in Estate Planning and Legal Malpractice for Utah

Q: what can i do about being billed for a court appearance that my lawyer did not attend?

we hired an attorney to write three amendments to a living trust. my mother was on her death bed and the attorney was out of town so he instructed us to see his paralegal and give her the instructions and he would meet with us at 8:30 am the following tuesday for her to sign the papers and then he would file. i hand wrote the instructions verbatim that my mother gaveme and took them to his ofice and gave them to the paralegal. she reviewedd them withme and i thoughtthatwould be it until tuesday so come tuesday i went to the hospice at 7:45 am to be there with my mother when the attorney came. but he had already come and gone by then. so it was all handled i thought. my mother died that wednesday the day after she signed the papers. i went in on thursday to see the lawyer only to find out thathe was now the executor of the trust and estate. we had never even met this guy before and the instructions were for me to become the executor of the estate and trust. I i need more than a thousan

1 Lawyer Answer
Wesley Winsor
Wesley Winsor
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Saint George, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: I am not sure I understand the question. This is a strange happening indeed. I am sorry for your loss. Trust amendments are not typically filed in court. In addition, in the creation/modification of a trust there usually isn't court appearance either unless it was an irrevocable trust and you need the Court's authority to do it.

Some relevant questions of whether the attorney acted inappropriately are:

1. Did you mother have a relationship with him prior? If she did, and she instructed him to change it so that he was the administrator and executor, then there might not be anything ethically wrong with it. Remember he was your mom's attorney and not yours. Although he should have let you know that he wouldn't make his appointment with you. That is just being courteous and polite.

2. Did your mom talk to you about any changes? Did she say anything at all about the status of her trust after she signed? If she thought she was signing one thing and she signed something else completely, there might be evidence of fraud. At any rate, the attorney should have had your mom explain the changes to you. This is not something I would feel comfortable doing personally. It has a taste of deception and when family is involved especially if they are close, it starts to look very inappropriate.

I would try to gather as much facts as you could, and if you feel like the attorney acted against your mom's wishes, I would call the Utah State Bar and talk to them.

I hope this helps.

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