Celebrated lawyer adds himself to client’s will

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A renowned lawyer has been caught inserting himself into a client’s will, standing to get a fifth of her estate, but has not been suspended from practicing.

According to a Herald Sun report, Dino De Marchi, a Vietnam War veteran who was feted by former Governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce at Government House in 2010, has pleaded guilty of including his name as a “significant beneficiary” of the will of client Lidia Toffolon. The client is said to have visited De Marchi’s law office in 2013 to have a new will prepared, and later instructed the lawyer to include himself as beneficiary.

Even after a solicitor employed by De Marchi told him the act would be a breach of rules, the lawyer did not cease to act for the client. Instead, he ordered his law firm and its address to be deleted from the cover page of the will.

De Marchi is said to have then taken the client to another lawyer, Carl Soccio, who read the will and asked if the client understood it. Toffolon said she did. Soccio said he told Toffolon that a lawyer is prohibited from getting “substantial benefit” from a client’s will.

The Legal Services Commissioner found de Marchi guilty of professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct in 2014. It then referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which has recently decided to reprimand the lawyer. According to the Herald Sun, the VCAT decided – taking into consideration De Marchi’s “otherwise blameless record” – that a reprimand for each offense, in addition to a $5,000 fine and an order to pay costs of $15,000, satisfied the need for deterrence and protection of the legal profession’s reputation.

 
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