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Beneficiaries Lack Standing to Sue Lawyers

Thursday, October 12, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tom Jensen
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Client executed power of attorney so her counsel could close her real estate transaction. She died on August 7. Closing occurred on August 8. Lawyers closed the transaction without informing beneficiaries of decedent's estate. Plaintiff beneficiaries of the estate and a pour-over trust attacked the transaction and the power of attorney. They claimed the legal work was intended to benefit them as beneficiaries to whom a duty was owed. Trial court granted motion to dismiss. In Mareskas-Palcek v. Schwartz Wolf & Bernstein LLP, 2017 WL 4358174 (Ill. App. Sept. 29, 2017) the court affirmed. Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim. "[T]o establish a duty owed by the defendant attorney to the nonclient the nonclient must allege and prove that the intent of the client to benefit the nonclient third party was the primary or direct purpose of the transaction or relationship." Here the complaint did not allege that decedent entered into an attorney-client relationship primarily to benefit plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were mere incidental beneficiaries of the engagement and incidental beneficiaries lack standing to sue. Lacking evidence decedent engaged in the real estate closing specifically for the purpose of passing the proceeds to plaintiffs, standing was absent.   

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