Alberto G. Rossi, of LeClairRyan writes that, in a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled a testator’s attorney can be held liable to a prospective beneficiary for fraudulent misrepresentations.
Mr. Rossi’s article begins as follows:
In Spinnato v. Gold- man, 2014 WL 7236343 (D. Mass. Dec. 19, 2014) (Saris, C.J.), applying Massachusetts law, the Court distinguished a fraudulent misrepresentation claim, where the case law is unsettled, from a negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty claim, where it is well-settled that a testator’s attorney cannot be held liable to prospective beneficiaries because the testator’s attorney does not owe a duty of care to prospective beneficiaries.
After describing the case in detail, Mr. Rossi concludes by stating the following:
The Spinnato decision illustrates one of the many hazards an attorney faces when making statements to non-clients and, in particular, when a non-client, as alleged in this case, detrimen- tally relies on the statements. The Spinnato decision also serves as a forewarning to estate planning attorneys to “speak up now or forever hold your peace,” as waiting until after the testator’s death to assert the testator was incompetent or under the undue influence of another when the testator executed or changed an estate planning document may give rise to an actionable claim by a beneficiary.