Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel on Facts and Determination

Aaron Murray Lessing

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: May 17, 1991

Ceased membership for non-payment of fees: January 1, 2021

Hearing date: November 30, 2021

Panel: Jennifer Chow, QC, Nan Bennett and Sandra Weafer

Decision issued: January 13, 2022 (2022 LSBC 02)

Counsel: Ilana Teicher for the Law Society; no one appearing on behalf of Aaron Murray Lessing

FACTS

The facts in this summary were in a notice to admit served on Aaron Murray Lessing, to which he did not respond.

Lessing was named as the executor and trustee of a client’s estate. The will provided for the residual proceeds to be divided equally among the client’s three children when they reached the age of 25. The client was in the process of separating with his spouse before he died.

Over a period of three years, one of the client’s children contacted Lessing on at least eight occasions asking for updates on the application for probate and when she could anticipate the completion of the estate administration. Lessing provided little substantive response except to advise that his paralegal was working on the file and to say they should meet.

Almost three years after the client’s death, the children emailed Lessing, his associate or his assistant on three occasions asking that he step down as executor and hand the matter over. He did not respond nor did he renounce his executorship. Over this period, Lessing also failed to respond to time-sensitive communications from the bank regarding his client’s spouse’s mortgage renewal, despite the matter being brought to his attention several times. The financial advisor required a signature from Lessing on behalf of his client, who remained on title. For over two months, Lessing did not sign the mortgage renewal and the spouse had to hire a notary to remove the deceased’s name from title so she could renew the mortgage.

The Law Society began an investigation after receiving a complaint from the client’s child. Lessing admitted he had not obtained probate of the will, and said the file was handled by his assistant and associate and he had little to do with it. To date, Lessing has not renounced his executorship nor has he applied for a grant of probate to administer the estate. The client’s child has retained new counsel.

DETERMINATION

The panel found that Lessing failed to fulfill his duties as executor, which constituted a marked departure from conduct that the Law Society expects of lawyers. The panel determined Lessing’s conduct constituted professional misconduct.

2022 LSBC 02 Decision on Facts and Determination