Attorney Suspended for Neglecting Clients in Estate Matters

Ohio’s highest court suspends an attorney who was hired to administer two estates, one involving a Medicaid recipient, but who neglected the clients after he discovered he couldn’t solve the issues the clients wanted resolved. Disciplinary Counsel v. Brueggeman (Ohio, No. 2020-OHIO-1578, April 24, 2020).

Attorney Edward Brueggeman practiced law in Ohio. In 2010, the state imposed a conditionally stayed one-year suspension on him for neglecting client matters and failing to communicate with clients. In 2017, Rebecca Lowry hired Mr. Brueggeman to help her administer her brother’s estate in a way that her mother, who was on Medicaid, would not inherit her brother’s house as his will dictated. Mr. Brueggeman directed Ms. Lowry to disclaim her mother’s interest in the estate, but Ms. Lowry did not have that authority under her mother’s power of attorney. When Mr. Brueggeman learned this, he stopped working on the estate and did not respond to Ms. Lowry’s attempts to communicate.

Around the same time, two sisters hired him to help administer their mother’s estate, which was insolvent. Mr. Brueggeman attempted to seek advice from the magistrate on how to handle the estate’s creditors. When the magistrate did not help him, he told the sisters he could no longer commute to the hearings, but said he would attempt to negotiate with the estate’s creditors. Instead, he negotiated with only two creditors and did not respond to the sisters’ attempts to communicate with him.

The state disciplinary board charged Mr. Brueggeman with professional misconduct involving failing to act with reasonable diligence, failing to reply to requests from a client, and failing to provide competent representation. The board recommended that the court suspend Mr. Brueggeman from the practice of law for two years, with the final 18 months conditionally stayed. Mr. Brueggeman argued his suspension should be fully stayed.

The Ohio Supreme Court suspends Mr. Brueggeman for two years, with the final 18 months conditionally stayed. The court determines that because Mr. Brueggeman had prior disciplinary action for similar conduct, his entire suspension should not be stayed.

For the full text of this decision, go to: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2020/2020-Ohio-1578.pdf

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