Monday, May 18, 2020

Panel urges disbarment over conflict of interest

By Sarah Mansur

A Woodstock attorney who received nearly $400,000 from his mother’s assets after redrafting her will six years before she died should be disbarred, an Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission panel has found.

The ARDC hearing board decided Jeffrey J. Keck had a conflict of interest when he drafted a new will for his mother, naming himself as the sole beneficiary and disinheriting his sibling.

It also found Keck, a sole practitioner, made false statements while testifying in probate proceedings related to his mother’s estate.

Keck denied allegations of misconduct, but he did not participate in the disciplinary hearing before the board.

Keck prepared wills for both his parents in 1980, according to the ARDC hearing board report filed April 27.

His father’s will left his entire estate to Keck’s mother, Margaret. If Margaret predeceased her husband, the estate was to be divided between Keck and his only brother, William.

Margaret’s will was similar, according to the report.

In April 2004, Margaret executed a new will that named Keck as the sole beneficiary, the report states. The new will does not list an attorney, nor does it state Keck or his brother were present.

William testified he only became aware of the new will after his mother died in May 2010.

Shortly after her death, Keck submitted a claim to AIG as the sole beneficiary of his mother’s life insurance policy. In July 2010, AIG paid Keck $252,343.90, the entire amount under the policy.

In December 2010, William filed a petition for probate and proof of his mother’s will. Several months later, he contested her will in court.

Keck testified in a deposition for the probate matter in July 2011 that he didn’t know who drafted his mother’s 2004 will, according to the board report.

When the dispute over her will went to trial in January 2014, Keck testified he prepared a draft will for Margaret in 2004 and that the draft appeared to be the same will that was executed in 2004.

In February 2014, a Kane County judge set the will aside on the grounds of undue influence, according to the hearing board report.

The court also revoked Keck’s status as executor and appointed Patrick M. Kinnally as the administrator for the estate.

In November 2015, Kinnally’s accounting showed the estate assets totaled $115,014.84. After payment of fees and expenses, the net assets totaled $42,601.30, of which Keck and William each received $21,300.65.

The hearing board’s report states Keck also received $88,500 from Margaret’s checking account and more than $47,000 from the value of her stocks.

All told, Keck received at least $387,843.90 from his mother’s assets, while his brother netted roughly $21,300, according to the report.

“When we consider all of the foregoing evidence, we conclude that [Keck] abused his position of trust and influence with respect to Margaret to dishonestly convert funds from her during her lifetime and to obtain sole possession of the proceeds of her life insurance policy and other assets after her death. We also find that he engaged in dishonesty based upon his involvement in the presentation of false insurance beneficiary documents,” the hearing board report states.

The hearing board — which consisted of James B. Pritikin, Nancy Hablutzel and Audrey Hauser — recommended Keck be disbarred.

Keck was licensed to practice in Illinois in 1978. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Findings by the hearing and review boards are strictly recommendations. Any discipline is decided by the Illinois Supreme Court.

This case is In re Jeffrey Joseph Keck, 19PR0027.

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Panel urges disbarment over conflict of interest

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