“An ethical estate planning attorney will plan for his client, not for himself.” With those words, the California Court of Appeal recently ripped Southern California attorney John LeBouef for taking advantage “of an elderly and mentally infirm person to enrich himself.”
In Butler v. LeBouef (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 198, the appellate court affirmed the invalidation of John Patton’s will and trust, which purportedly left Patton’s $5 million estate to LeBouef. The ruling illustrates the Probate Code’s prohibition of donative transfers to categories of persons who, because of their relationship with the creator of a trust, might exercise undue influence. The law, in particular, presumes that an attorney who drafts a trust in which the attorney is named as a beneficiary does so without the client’s knowledge and consent. The opinion also shows how contestants can use evidence of other “bad acts” to bolster their cases if those other acts show a common plan or scheme.