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An attorney is required to overcome the presumption of undue influence arising from the attorney-client relationship in order to receive the devises left to him and his family
Based on the binding precedent of Powers, the court reversed the trial court’s order granting the appellees’ summary disposition motion and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. They contested the decedent’s trust and will on the basis that appellant (the decedent’s long-time friend and an attorney, the drafter of the documents, and the proponent of the documents) was the recipient, together with his children, of the majority of decedent’s estate. Appellees asserted a violation of the MRPC, contending that “the devises were void as against public policy,” and thus, unenforceable. The court held that Powers was directly on point and binding. UnderÂ Powers, the court was “required to remand for further proceedings, where appellant would be required to overcome the presumption of undue influence arising from the attorney-client relationship in order to receive the devises left to him and his family.” Appellees were correct that “MRPC 1.8(c) expressly prohibits the conduct” in this case. However, the court found that there are valid policy reasons why the “Supreme Court could reembrace the rule enunciated in Powers and conclude that it is appropriate to treat a trust or will, drafted in clear violation of the MRPC, differently than a contract drafted in violation of the MRPC would be treated.” It is “principally the drafting lawyer who suffers the consequence of the invalid contract. However, where a trust or will is deemed void as against public policy because the drafting attorney violated the MRPC, the invalidation of the bequest potentially fails to honor the actual and sincere desires of the grantor.” Thus, the “proper remedy for the rule violation may be to follow the normal procedures intended to effectuate the grantor’s intent, but to also view the devises to the drafting attorney and his family with suspicion, by application of the presumption of undue influence, rather than to declare the devises void on their face.” If appellant “can rebut the presumption of undue influence with competent evidence, then the devises should be enforced.” Finally, the statutory scheme provided by the Legislature suggested that “the contestant of a trust or will must establish, inter alia, undue influence in order to invalidate the trust or will.”Â