Archive for the ‘Elder Clients and Elder Law’ Category

Woman Accused of Stealing from Elderly Client Called “Paralegal” in News Article

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

A story on WFTV’s website reports “A Brevard County woman is accused of stealing thousands from a 92-year-old woman with dementia and a retired teacher who lives in a nursing home,” with the headline, “Brevard paralegal accused of stealing from elderly female clients.” This story raises a number of issues that are the subject of frequent comments here including the role of legal personnel in preventing elder abuse(and here,) the danger of legal personnel committing elder abuse, and the role of a supervising attorney in supervising (or the failure of the attorney to supervise) legal staff who embezzle from law firms or from clients.

In this instance my focus is once again on the tendency of the public (especially mass media) to refer to any person who works for an attorney as a “paralegal” without regard to the role that person plays in the law office or the qualifications of that person for classification as a paralegal. This problem derives from and at the  same time perpetuates the difficulty the paralegal profession continues to have in establishing a professional identity. Efforts such as Florida’s Registered Paralegal program should help in this regard, but this story emanates from Florida.

At first the story states, “Jenine Black was the office manager for an attorney of Estate Planning and Elder Law Center of Brevard.” Clearly a person can be an office manager without being a paralegal and a paralegal without being a manager. But later the story pegs her as both office manager and paralegal:

  The attorney who owns the office, Robin Petersen, first noticed money missing from his accounts.

“At the time, it was close to $200,000. Now we estimate it’s over $200,000 taken from him personally,” Sgt. Michael Casey of the Indialantic Police Department said.

Police said perhaps more outrageous is that the longtime office manager and paralegal is accused of targeting elderly clients.

The woman with dementia and the retired teached are each missing around $20,000, police said.

“She was actually taking it straight from their accounts and she was writing checks out of their accounts,” Casey said.

There is, of course, no indication as to the basis for that designation. It’s a shame. The paralegal profession, like all professions, has its share of “bad apples.” It does not help to the profession to also be pegged with responsibility for  acts committed by persons who a re  not really part of the profession.

Suicide Watch

Friday, January 18th, 2013

There is a time and place for suicide, at least according to the laws in three states – Oregon, Washington, and Montana. But most often it is a drastically permanent solution to temporary problems. As legal professionals we frequently provide services to people experiencing those problems. This can be particularly true when providing services to the elder client. It can also be particularly troublesome as it can be hard to see the distinction between the permanency of aging and the diminished capacity that goes with it and the impermanent nature of some of the psychological effects of that diminished capacity. So here’s today’s comment drawn from The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client:”

Suicide

Suicide is not itself a psychological disorder. However, it can be the result of the psychological disorders affecting the elderly. Every text I consulted on the psychology of aging emphasizes the risk of suicide among elderly clients. Hooyman and Kiyak note studies estimating that 17 to 25 percent of all completed suicides occur in persons aged 65 and older with the highest rate among older white males. The legal professional should learn the risk factors for suicide in older adults and take all indications of suicidal ideation seriously. The risk factors include

• a serious physical illness with severe pain
• the sudden death of a loved one
• a major loss of independence or feelings of financial inadequacy
• statements that indicate frustration with life and a desire to end it
• a sudden decision to give away one’s most important possessions
• a general loss of interest in one’s social and physical environment.

All sources report that the axiom that someone who talks about suicide will not attempt suicide is a myth. Therefore, all indication of potential suicide on the part of our clients should be taken seriously. Establish a procedure to be followed in your office for when you are concerned about a client. That procedure must include voicing that concern to the attorney immediately and should also include voicing the concern to the client. In certain cases, it should also include asking the client if they have a plan and what they have done to advance the plan. Seek professional help immediately.

StopSuicide.org gives the following advice to people seeking to help prevent suicide among friends:
If the person seems unwilling to accept treatment, call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) or a local emergency room for resources and advice.
If the person seems willing to accept treatment, do one of the following…
* Bring him or her to a local emergency room or community mental health center. Your friend will be more likely to seek help if you accompany him or her.
* Contact his or her primary care physician or mental health provider.

Generally we are not, and should not attempt to be, our clients’ friend. However, it may be appropriate to act in accordance with this advice except that we must confront the issue of breaching attorney/client confidentiality under these circumstances is not clear, at least according to some writers, so again it is important to discuss this matter with your attorney and have a clear policy and procedures in place before the need arises. (This ethical issue, along with others particularly pertinent to elderly clients, is discussed more extensively elsewhere in the book.)

The Paralegal’s Role in Ensuring that Subscribing Witnesses Fulfill Their Role.

Monday, December 17th, 2012

A few days ago Judge Primeaux included a post on his blog regarding the The Role of the Subscribing Witnesses to as will spurred on by a Mississippi Supreme Court decision. In that case “The two subscribing witnesses were called to testify, and their testimony established that: they did not know they were witnessing a will; that the testator did not request that they witness a will; and that they did not satisfy themselves that the testator was of sound and disposing mind when she executed the will.” The court reversed the chancellor’s decision admitting the will, holding that the subscribing witnesses did not satisfy the requirement of “attesting” witnesses. The court’s opinion noted, “These formalities associated with attesting a will are important, not only as safeguards against fraud by substitution of a different will than the one signed by the testator, but also to make sure a person executing a will is of sound and disposing mind.”

Judge Primeaux states, “I would say that most of us who have ever prepared simple wills as a routine matter for clients have not paid heed to the exacting requirements that are imposed on subscribing witnesses by operation of the case law in this area. But, as this case illustrates, it is worth re-examining how you select and instruct your subscribing/attesting witnesses as to their duties, and, more importantly, how you document what it is that they are witnessing. By that latter point, I mean to suggest that you might want to scrutinize that subscribing witness affidavit form that is fossilized in your computer and which you have been using for more than 35 years, to see whether it is stout enough to pass muster in a trial of this sort, and whether it would help jog the memory of the witness to the extent that the witness’s testimony would be helpful.”

The judge is right, but in many law offices it will not be the attorney who sees that this gets done. As I discuss in great detail in The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client a good paralegal will see that the a statutory requirements are met. Create and use detailed checklists for every step in every legal proceeding. Break enabling statutes such as those that enable people to make wills down into their elements. The break down can then be used as a checklist. Supplement with requirements interpreted or added by court opinions. The court in this case noted

Mississippi law empowers “[e]very person eighteen (18) years of age or older, being of sound and disposing mind” to make a will which, if not “wholly written and subscribed” by the testator, must be “attested by two (2) or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator or testatrix [MCA 91-5-1]. The attesting witnesses must meet four requirements: First, the testator must request them to attest the will [Green v. Pearson, 145 Miss. 23, 110 So. 862, 864 (1927)]; second, they must see the testator sign the will [Matter of Jefferson’s Will, 349 So.3d 1032, 1036 (Miss. 1977)]; third, they must know that the document is the testator’s last will and testament [Estate of Griffith v. Griffith, 20 So.2d 1190, 1194 (Miss. 2010)]; and finally, they must satisfy themselves that the testator is of sound and disposing mind and capable of making a will [Matter of Jefferson’s Will, Id.].

This provides a good basis for a checklist:

1.  client

a. eighteen (18) years of age or older

b. of sound and disposing mind (document file)

2. Subscribing witness

a. two or more

b. credibile (document file)

c. in presence of testator or testatrix

d. requested by testator to attest the will

e. see the testator sign the will

f. know that the document is the testator’s last will and testament

g. satisfy themselves that the testator is

i.  of sound and disposing mind and

ii. capable of making a will

If each item on the checklist is documented at the time of the execution of the document and the checklist is kept in the file, not only can all be assured that the requirements are met, but there will be a record that can be used to prove the requirements were met in the event of a hearing many years later.

Note 1: Most states have a provision for “Self-proving Wills” that ought to be part of every will execution.

Note 2: Judge Primeaux’s blog is just chock full of helpful checklists for most proceedings that take place in equity courts regardless of their name in your jurisdiction, e.g., probate court, family court.  It is important, however, to adapt those checklists to the statutes, rules, and other applicable law for your jurisdiction.

The Supervising Attorney as Brother’s Keeper

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Yes, it’s been a while, but No I’ve not been back in the hospital. Thanks to all those who asked. I’ve been traveling to conferences and back to Maine and, thus, getting further and further behind in my regular work, so I’ve not been blogging in order to catch up. I’m just now getting to reading email and postings on other blogs from the last few weeks.

One topic that caught my eye was a pair of posts regarding misconduct by legal professionals. Normally when I spot a story regarding embezzlement by a paralegal I go on a bit of rant about the failure of the supervising attorney to supervise the paralegal. After all, the paralegals are not supposed to work independently. I felt somewhat vindicated in this position when I read the ABA Journal post on an attorney who was reprimanded for failing to supervise his own brother, even though he reported his brother’s embezzlement:

Peter J. Galasso, a New York lawyer, should have been his brother’s keeper, the New York Court of Appeals found Tuesday.

Anthony Galasso was the office manager at the firm that was then known as Galasso & Langione, and Peter Galasso told authorities that his brother embezzled millions of dollars from client funds, Newsday reports. Nevertheless, the state’s high court found that Peter Galasso did not properly supervise the work of his brother, who spent the money on Barbra Streisand tickets and a Mercedes-Benz, among other things.

So naturally I was ready to go on another tear when I saw this headline: “Paralegal pleads guilty to embezzling $311,000 from elderly client,” especially since it involved financial abuse an elder client – another area that easily rankles me (See Elder Clients and Elder Law category.)

But this one is a bit problematical. The paralegal was working at a law firm, but “Blood, 56, a paralegal at Hiscock & Barclay’s Buffalo offices … took on the task for the widow as a side job,” and began writing out checks from the widow’s accounts to herself. It’s not clear how this “side-job” came about. Certainly if the 77 year-old widow was a client of the firm and the side-job was known to the firm, a case could be made that there is still an obligation on the part of the firm to make sure its employee was not ripping off the client, but it is not a clear-cut case. The firm , “told The Buffalo News that the thefts from the heiress “occurred outside her employment” at the law firm. They also said she is “no longer employed by the firm.”

In the end, I have to agree with the widow: Trust, but verify,’ ” she said. She urged people who entrust others to keep track of their finances, even if they’re family members, to keep tabs on what’s going on. “Look at me,” she said. “I’m not a stupid bunny.” However, many elderly are not able to verify and do not have trusted family members to do it for them. So one can’t help but wonder whether the firm should have done more verifying in this case. I like to hear from anyone who knows more about the facts of this case and, of course, from any one who has a reasoned opinion on the issues it raises.

Being Too Influential

Monday, June 4th, 2012

ABA Journal.com recently posted an article entitled, “Staff of Reclusive Heiress Coerced Her Out of $44M in Gifts, Executor Says,” regarding an action brought against nurses, doctors, a hospital, a lawyer and an accountant for reclusive heiress Huguette Clark claiming they coerced or influenced her out of more than $44 million in gifts. I know nothing more about the facts of the case and whether or not Clark was unduly influenced by these people. However, the article raises some issues addressed here previously and at least one that has not yet been the focus of a post here, although it is discussed extensively in The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client.

One previously discussed issue is the role of a paralegal as a “watchdog” both in general and with regard to practices within ones own law firm. That is, it is incumbent upon the professional paralegal to see can be seen and sometimes notice what is not there to be seen, make an appropriate record and when necessary “do the right thing.” Another is how a paralegal should handle ethical violation on the part of an attorney.

Not previously discussed and thus the focus here is the danger that legal professionals might unduly influence their clients without intending to do so. Consider this excerpt from Working with the Elder Client:

Avoiding unintentional undue influence by the legal professional

The importance of the various methods of making advance decisions is that the client can make the decision that best suits their own beliefs. Having a living will or an advanced health care directive does not compel a client to choose an approach in opposition to their own beliefs. It simply allows them to make the decision rather than leave it to someone else, someone who may not share their beliefs. Establishing a “fair” estate plan, must be done using the client’s conception of fairness, not ours.

We must be careful in discussing these options with clients that we do not judge their decisions or let them feel we do not approve of their decision. As noted previously, the elderly, especially those who are seriously ill, can be particularly vulnerable to outside influences. While many people become less concerned about what others think of them as they grow older, some others suffer from loss of a sense of self that can make them more susceptible to such influence. Our role is to assist the client in determining and effectuating their wishes, not to judge, shame, or persuade the client to our way of thinking.

It is often difficult to gauge our own prejudices and the way they affect our demeanor and approach to client. It is important that we reflect carefully on our own preferences. For example, it is my belief that options for making decisions regarding end-of-life healthcare can be arranged in a descending order, i.e., that the first is better than the second, the second better than the third, and so on.

I view these options as belonging to one of three categories. In the first, the client makes as many health care decisions for himself in advance as he can and designates someone to make only those decisions which were not anticipated in advance. In the second, the client makes no decisions in advance except the designation of the person or persons who will make necessary decisions on her behalf. Finally, there is the option of taking no action. In this instance, the client should understand that taking no action is itself making a decision. The client decides to allow someone designated by state law to make the decisions on her behalf. However, throughout the discussion we must keep in mind that the paralegal’s role is to inform (and for the attorney to advise), not to convince or persuade, a client even unintentionally…

As discussed extensively in Working, it is often difficult to tell when a client is being unduly influenced by outsiders. It can be even more difficult when we ourselves are involved, even when that involvement is nothing more than the very provision of legal services for which our clients have turned to us.

Advance Directives for Seniors project

Monday, March 5th, 2012

This story is notable for several reason including the obvious value of the project. One of significance is the fact that the article refers to “attorney – paralegal teams.”

Advance Directives for Seniors project visits Jacksonville townhouse
by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

A team of volunteers including seven attorneys, four paralegals, and five law students gathered Feb. 25 to assist local seniors in creating advance directive documents.

The project was a collaborative effort of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.

The pro bono attorneys included Robert Morgan, Krista Parry, Bruce Duggar, Robyn Moore, Debbie Lee-Clark, Hollyn Foster and Pat Vail.

Paralegals Margaret Costa, Regina Colbert, Donna Hoffman and Courtney Brown, as well as law students Gabriella Vero, Hayley James, Melissa Cohenson, Camille Higham and Amanda Gray serving as scribes, witnesses, notaries and interviewers.

The attorney-paralegal and attorney-law student teams created and executed the advance directive documents including Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designations, Living Wills, and Designations of Pre-need Guardian for 24 local senior citizens.

For more on how this project operates (just in case your association is looking for a project) click here for the full story in the Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record.

More on advanced directives and other end-of-life planning in the next post.

Paranoid clients: Whose reality is real?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Paranoia is a difficult topic to address in the client context. It is, as you likely know, a disorder in which a person is very suspicious and distrustful of others. MedlinePlus, an informational website provided as a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, describes the symptoms in this way:

People with paranoid personality disorder are highly suspicious of other people. They are usually unable to acknowledge their own negative feelings towards other people.

Other common symptoms include:

 

  • Concern that other people have hidden motives
  • Expectation that they will be exploited by others
  • Inability to work together with others
  • Poor self image
  • Social isolation
  • Detachment
  • Hostility[1]

 

There is also a type of lesser distrustful behavior that lacks the more psychotic persecutory elements of delusional paranoia. This type is called “functional paranoia” because it serves the function of reducing the sense of vulnerability that often accompanies the loss of independence and control experienced by the elderly. In essence, functional paranoia is a coping mechanism. However, the “distrust, suspiciousness, and blaming of others can take on an angry quality that certainly can be aggravating for others.”[2]

A paranoid client is problematic for legal professionals in at least two respects, (1) they mistrust just about everyone, including the legal professionals who are attempting to help them, and (2) it is difficult to separate out the reality from the unreality of the information they provide. To a great extent the empowered paralegal will already be prepared for dealing with the first of these problems, because the paralegal will already be communicating fully with clients. When the client’s paranoia is functional, full communication can empower the client and diminish their feelings of vulnerability. However, even though functional paranoia fulfills a rational purpose, the paranoia ideation itself is not rational; the definition of paranoia is irrational suspicion. You cannot expect someone for whom paranoia is a coping mechanism to suddenly stop the ideation simply because you are in fact very trustworthy and have only the client’s best interests in mind.

Paranoia is subject to treatment. Counseling in which “an individual focuses on changing negative, self-defeating beliefs or misconceptions, may be useful in treating paranoid older adults who often attribute causality to external factors (e.g., the belief that someone took their pocketbook, that they themselves did not misplace it)”[3]may enable that individual to redirect those beliefs. However, we as legal professionals cannot make it our role to counsel or treat paranoia. Rather, we best perform our role when we understand the paranoid client and use that understanding to better work with the client.

Here are some suggestions for coping with the paranoid client:

  • Do not take his mistrust personally
  • Keep the client fully informed on a consistent, regular basis
  • Speak and write in short, simple, and clear sentences to minimize misunderstanding and misinterpretation
  • While you must check fairly constantly the client’s thoughts and statements against reality, do not constantly confront the client with that reality. Remember, the clients delusions are reality for them. Chose these “battles” wisely.
  • At the same time that you let client statements and ideation pass without openly questioning it, do not indicate that your are accepting or “buying into” the client’s paranoia. Be firm and respectful in protecting and projecting your own reality. (We are, of course, all hopeful that our reality is the reality, but be mindful that each of our realities is, at least, colored by our own biases, prejudices, and suspicions.) Do not see monsters under the bed just to keep the client happy.
  • Be open to the client’s discussion of her mistrust and suspicions. Let her know that she is free to voice them to you. Clarify misunderstandings about your actions or motivations in a non-defensive, non-judgment way.
  • Anticipate events that are likely to give rise to mistrust and suspicions. Explain proceedings and the role of the persons in them well in advance. For example, it is useful for any client to know that a mediator may be meeting with both sides of a dispute privately and that such meetings may not be equal in length, but this is essential information for a paranoid client.
  • Focus on the client as a whole and as an individual. Do not focus on his symptoms.

The empowered paralegal is also well-equipped to separate out legal relevant portions of client reports from the legally irrelevant, and is likely to have considerable practice at separating fact from fiction in the client’s rendition of her side of a case. Our client’s reports to us are always colored by their particular perspective, biases, prejudices, desires, and motivations. Paranoid clients are an extreme form of this. However, they are more than just an extreme form of this phenomenon. Non-paranoid clients, unless they are simply lying, color reality, but do not irrationally misjudge it.

This is a problem for the legal professional because we must make our judgments and recommendations based on the facts. If our clients are showing signs of paranoia, we need to be ever more mindful of our obligation to verify the facts before taking action. Michael Nugent Moore, a paralegal and licensed private investigator located in Boston, commented on this topic in a NFPA LinkedIn discussion thread. He gives this example,

While working as an investigative paralegal, I had a client who was a WW II vet. He believed that someone had stolen stock from him. His mind seemed sharp, but he had bouts of paranoia. I found numerous facts that contradicted his report of the situation and I was informed that paranoia is the initial manifestation of dementia. It was a real strain constantly trying sort out reality.

However, we must also avoid swinging too far in the other direction. There is tendency to discount or even ignore everything a paranoid client says, especially when they are making accusations against people who appear to us to be above such accusations. The sad fact is that all too often an elderly client’s own children, and the nursing home personnel entrusted with the care of the elderly, do steal from, neglect, and abuse those for whom they are providing care. We cannot assume these problems are not occurring simply because the client displays signs of, or even has been diagnosed with, paranoia.

Finally, as is the case with depression discussed previously and dementia discussed in the next section, paranoia provides cause for concern regarding our client’s competency.

 [Excerpted and modified from The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client.]


 

[1] Medline Plus, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000938.htm (Last accessed March 17, 2010)

[2] Sheldon S. Tobin, Preservation of  the Self in the Oldest Years, Springer Publishing Company (1999), 14.

[3] Hooyman and Kiyak, 235

Paralegals help expand pro bono services for low-income senior citizens

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association is part of a consortium of groups banding together to provide legal services to low-income elderly. According to the Jacksonville Daily Record:

Building on the current efforts of dedicated Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) pro bono attorneys Pat Vail and Joe Meux, attorneys, paralegals and law school representatives met July 12 at the offices of Akerman Senterfitt to discuss plans for expanding services to low-income senior citizens in Northeast Florida.

The expansion in services will be modeled after the Military Reservists Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project that has been offered to Navy and Army reservists at local military facilities.

The services will help to organize their affairs and by planning ahead, these seniors will protect their rights and make informed decisions about their health care, property and family in the event of their own incapacity or death.

….

By helping senior citizens make these choices, the Senior Citizen Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project will help provide stability, dignity and comfort to the seniors and their families as they make decisions during end-of-life chapters.

“There has been deep discussion over how to broaden the reach of the advanced directive program by encouraging other lawyers, paralegals and law students to participate as well,” said attorney Pat Vail, who has provided leadership and advocacy for this population.

Vail added that there have been many “willing hands” interested in helping to provide services to seniors, including members of the Elder Law section of The Jacksonville Bar Association, service coordinators at residential centers, Florida Coastal School of Law, the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

This is an excellent idea. In general, bar associations and paralegal associations should work together to maximize access to justice in the United States.  There are no losers and many winners when this happens. The lawyers accomplish far more than they would without the assistance of paralegals. The paralegals gain experience, network, project a good image with both the bar and the public, and satisfy  ethical obligations. And the benefits to the community are obvious.

Kudos to all involved.

Elderly Legal Professionals Vulnerable as Other Elders

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Regular readers of this blog are aware that my interest in Elder Law issues lead to The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Clientrather than the reverse. Of special importance to me is the unique role the legal team has in spotting elder abuse. Relating this particularly to paralegals I’ve noted their unique position to intervene especially when that abuse is caused by an attorney. Today’s post relates, however, to the vulnerability of the elderly that exists even when the elderly person is an attorney.

I have no information in that regard that a paralegal could have noticed or done anything to prevent the events on which this post focuses, but I include it today nevertheless primarily because it illustrates the point that members of the legal team are not exempt from the vulnerability that comes with aging:

Man Gets 46 Years in Elderly Ex-Lawyer’s Slaying, Expected to Testify Against Ex-Client Co-Defendant

Keith Allen said he held Carl Kuhn’s wrist until he could no longer feel the 82-year-old man’s pulse as a trusted ex-client, Terry Bratcher, allegedly held a pillow over the former Illinois criminal defense attorney’s face in his suburban Chicago home one day in 2009.

That was enough to support the 22-year-old Allen’s first-degree murder plea earlier this year, for which he was sentenced Monday to 46 years in prison, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Allen is expected to cooperate and potentially testify in the state’s case against Bratcher, 44, who is awaiting trial. Authorities say he and Bratcher went to Kuhn’s home near Barlett to steal firearms from his gun collection, but suffocated him to death when he refused to give them the code for his locked safe.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-Client Charged With Killing Lawyer; Death At First Thought Natural”

Fair warning to students in my fall class, “Law and Aging:” you will benefit from reading all posts in the “Elder Clients and Elder Law” category!

When the client marries at age 85 and in ill health…

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

A number of posts here lately have dealt indications that our elderly clients are being abused and the paralegal’s role in being aware of those indications. The most recent post noted that on occasion the issue arises out of conduct of the attorney with regard to the client. As if to emphasize my point, there’s this from Legal Profession Blog today:

A story posted today at SFGate.com describes a recent California disciplinary action:

A veteran Pacifica attorney is facing disbarment for allegedly duping an 85-year-old client into giving her $339,000, entering into a sham marriage with him and ignoring his will by having him cremated after his death.

Linda Lowney “took advantage of a lonely, sick old man” and thwarted his intent to transfer his estate to his nieces, Judge Pat McElroy of the State Bar Court said Friday.

She ordered the immediate suspension of Lowney, who has practiced law since 1978 and had no disciplinary actions on her record. The disbarment could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but Lowney’s attorney, Jonathan Arons, said Tuesday he had little hope that such an appeal would succeed, despite his disagreement with the ruling.

“I think they (the court) misunderstood the relationship,” Arons said. “This was a marriage.”

The attorney was 54 when she married a man who was “85 and in poor health.”

According to SFGate:

Lowney also sued for a share of Tollefsen’s estate. A state appeals court ruled against her in 2009, suggested “financial abuse of elders” was involved and referred the case to the State Bar.

While I have no knowledge other than this, I suspect a paralegal was a witness in these matters!

h/t ABAJournal.com who notes:

Back in 2002, Linda Lowney drafted a will for her client, Thor Tollefsen, that provided for his estate to go to his sister and two nieces in Norway.

But by 2005 the 54-year-old California attorney had become involved with Tollefsen, 85. He gave her $339,000, with his nieces’ consent, and the two got married in January 2006, using a confidential license, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.