The Michigan Supreme Court on June 21, 2018 issued their much-anticipated opinion in the case of In re Mardigian Estate. In that case attorney Mark Papazian prepared a trust amendment and corresponding will for his client and friend Robert Mardigian. The new estate planning documents left the bulk of Mardigian's very substantial ($ millions) estate to Papazian and his children. Mardigian died six months later. Not surprisingly, Mardigian's family, comprised of his nieces and nephews, as he did not have any children, challenged the documents and accused Papazian of exerting undue influence in obtaining Mardigian's signature on the documents. The probate court summarily set the documents aside as contrary to public policy because Michigan Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.8(c) prohibits an attorney from preparing a document, such as a will or a trust, that gives the attorney or his family "any substantial gift." There is little doubt that the preparation of the will and trust was prepared in violation of this rule.
Many lawyers have multiple specialties that seem to go hand in hand. People often think of lawyers with dual specialties as having only one. Tax AND estate planning, medical malpractice AND personal injury, corporate AND securities are but a few examples that come immediately to mind. Let me add another natural combination of which I am one of a very few members; real estate AND probate.