Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Agreed Statement of Facts

CHRISTOPHER ROY PENTY

Called to the Bar: May 10, 1983

Ceased membership: September 28, 2017

Agreed statement of facts: August 30, 2017

Counsel: Alison L. Kirby for the Law Society; Christopher Roy Penty on his own behalf

FACTS

On December 9, 2014, Christopher Roy Penty was asked by a social worker to meet with a hospital patient to prepare a will. The client wished to leave his estate to charity. Penty and the client agreed that the client would leave one-quarter of the estate to the hospital’ s hospice foundation. At the time, Penty was the president and a director of the hospice foundation.

On December 9, Penty prepared a will, which bequeathed one-quarter of the estate to the hospice foundation and three-quarters to Penty "for his own use absolutely." The will states that the share of the estate left to Penty “ may be paid out, in his unfettered discretion, to various charities, persons and organizations of his choosing.”

On December 10 the client executed the will. He died on December 14.

On December 22, Penty met with the deceased’ s two surviving brothers, and told them that their brother’ s estate had been left to the hospice foundation and to other charities. Penty did not tell them that he was the beneficiary of three-quarters of the residue of the estate. Penty does not recall giving them a copy of the will at that meeting, nor did he mail them a copy or tell them to obtain independent legal advice.

On March 27, 2015, Penty made an application for grant of probate and, in a related document, he answered "N/A" in the section in which he was to list "each person, if any, who would have been an intestate successor if the deceased had not left a will." He knew he should have listed the names of the deceased’ s brothers. On April 13, the court granted administration of the estate to Penty.

On June 30, the deceased’ s house was sold. Penty said he had an agreement with the real estate agent that he would receive 35 per cent of the commission normally paid to the seller's agent, in this case $1,468.60.

On July 9, Penty provided a cheque for $51,799.98 to the hospice foundation, representing one-quarter of the estate.

Penty also issued himself a cheque for $155,399.95, representing the remaining three-quarters of the estate, and deposited that money into one of his personal savings accounts. On July 22, Penty opened a new personal chequing account in his name and deposited $153,931.35 into it.

In October 2015, Penty made the following payments from the chequing account: $20,000 to a woman who had become a friend of the deceased in his final year; $7,500 as a donation in Penty’ s name to an organization supported by the hospice foundation; $5,000 to a neighbour of the deceased whom Penty had hired to perform renovations on the home; and $5,000 as a donation in Penty’ s name to a local charity.

On October 29, Penty transferred $95,000 of the estate funds from the chequing account into an existing, personal securities account in Penty’ s name. Between November 30, 2015 and February 15, 2016, Penty withdrew $16,198.01 from the chequing account for his personal use, and on January 6, 2016, he withdrew a further $2,000 as a charitable donation in his own name.

ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Penty admitted that he committed professional misconduct by (1) improperly preparing a will in which he made himself the executor, trustee and beneficiary of three quarters of the estate, (2) acting in a conflict of interest in preparing the estate documents and by failing to provide the deceased’ s relatives with a copy of the will; (3) making personal use of the estate funds he received as beneficiary under the will when he had been instructed by the deceased to donate those funds to charity; and (4) misleading the court in sworn affidavits filed in connection with his application for probate. His admission was made to the Discipline Committee under Law Society Rule 4-29, which provides for a process in which a respondent can admit misconduct and the matter is resolved without a hearing.

In resolving the citation and permitting Penty to resign as a member of the Law Society in the face of discipline, the Law Society required Penty to provide an undertaking for a period of seven years:

  • not to apply for reinstatement to the Law Society of BC;
  • not to apply for membership in any other law society (or like governing body regulating the practise of law) without first advising in writing the Law Society; and
  • not to permit his name to appear on the letterhead of, or otherwise work in any capacity whatsoever for, any lawyer or law firm in BC, without obtaining the prior written consent of the Discipline Committee

Should Penty apply for reinstatement after seven years, he would then have to satisfy a credentials hearing panel that he is of good character and fit to practise law and, if reinstated, would have to comply with whatever conditions or limitations on his practice that may be imposed.

Agreed Statement of Facts