For the past two years, Gunster attorney William T. Hennessey has served as chair of the Ad Hoc Estate Planning Conflicts Committee for the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar.

His article, “Be careful what you wish for – gifts to drafting attorneys” was published recently in Action Line, a publication of the Florida Bar’s RPPTL section.

It concerns the issue of lawyers drafting testamentary documents in which they are named as beneficiaries.

The Conflicts Committee, Hennessey says, was surprised to learn that this is a problem and a growing number of lawyers are subject to disciplinary problems every year as a result of violating Florida Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 4-1.8(c), which provides in part that:

“a lawyer shall not prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any substantial gift unless the lawyer or other recipient of the gift is related to client.”

Complicating the matter, Florida courts have determined that violation of this rule does not render the gift void as a matter of law.

The resulting allure of a potential gift presents an ethical dilemma referred to in one case decision as the “South Indian Monkey Trap.”

Read the entire article: Be careful what you wish for – gifts to drafting attorneys (Action Line, a publication of The Florida Bar Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section, Fall 2012)


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