Today’s New York Daily News  calls attention to a problem that may not surface all that often but is always ugly when it does. Following up on its series of articles about 104 year old socialite Brooke Astor which I have reported on here, the News has turned to Ms. Astor’s lawyer, 63 year old Francis Morrissey who was hired by her son Anthony Marshall to replace the venerable and well-reputed law firm of Sullivan Cromwell which had represented her for forty years.

Morrissey is evidently no stranger to controversy  concernining the elderly persons and the estates which he has represented. He has been named as a beneficiary on several occasions and has inherited such valuable goodies as Manhattan apartments and valuable works of art including at least one Renoir and a Diego Rivera drawing as well as substantial sums of cash. Claims of undue influence have been leveled against Morrissey in more than one instance.

I would like to be able to say that all lawyers are scrupulously honest —especially those involved in estate practice. Unfortunately, being around large sums of money is sometimes more temptation than some folks can stand —lawyers included.

That in mind, I cannot stress enough the need for vigilance . Be involved in the financial affairs of your loved ones. Even if your aunt Matilda is tempted to make her attorney or financial advisor a beneficiary, you can stop this if you are the one who takes her to her appointments and reviews the materials she is given with her. Don’t be afraid to suggest that she goes for a second opinion. After all, she understands that she should see more than one doctor for a medical problem.

Review the paperwork. Ask for explanations and copies of records. Those of us who try to to a good job for our clients understand the need to be accountable and will not be offended by those who ask for details.