Ethics Opinion 343

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Committee on Professional Ethics

Opinion #343 – 05/30/1974 (19-74)

Topic: Paralegal supervision of execution of Wills
Digest: Paralegals may not supervise the execution of a Will
Code: EC 3-5, 3-6, 3-7; DR 3-101 (A)

QUESTION

May an attorney delegate to his paralegal supervision over the execution of a Will.

OPINION

An attorney may not delegate to a paralegal the task of supervising the execution of a Will. This is tantamount to counseling a client about law matters and permitting a paralegal to engage in the practice of law. Not only is strict compliance with a statute required, but the presence of the attorney provides added assurance that the Will was properly executed by a competent testator.An attorney may employ non-lawyers to do any task for him except counsel clients about law matters, engage directly in the practice of law, appear in court or appear in formal proceedings a part of judicial process, so long as it is he who takes the work and vouches for it. ABA 316 (1967). The subsequent examination of a Will executed under the supervision of a person other than the attorney does not provide him with sufficient knowledge to allow him to vouch for its due execution. EC 3-6.Professional judgment must be exercised in the supervision of the execution of a Will and this professional judgment may not be delegated. N.Y. State 304 (1973); EC 3-5.

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