Misconduct reaches beyond the grave - professional obligation and estate planning: a timely reminder
In the case of Lodin v Lodin; Estate of Dr Mohammed Masoud Lodin  a former wife successfully sought to obtain provision out of a doctor’s intestate estate. An intestate estate is when a person dies without an effective Will.
On 19 November 2014 the doctor’s daughter, to whom the whole of his residuary estate of more than $5 million net devolved upon intestacy, was granted letters of administration (letters of administration provides authority for a person to administer a deceased’s estate when they have died without an effective Will or where the Executor appointed has died or is otherwise prevented from acting). However, the daughter’s mother (who was the doctor’s former wife and from whom he had been separated for more than 25 years) brought a claim against the estate. Interestingly, the doctor’s second child did not make any claim against the estate.
Throughout Australia, succession legislation provides that if a person fails to make adequate provision for the proper maintenance, education and advancement in life of certain persons (known as ‘eligible persons’, which includes a person’s spouse, former spouse, children and certain other categories of person who were dependent or in a close personal relationship with the deceased) then the court may make a family provision order out of the estate in favour of the eligible person. In Lodin, Mr Lodin’s former wife was an eligible person.
The former wife argued that because their relationship arose in the course of a professional doctor/patient relationship, the doctor’s testamentary obligation was to atone for his professional misconduct in engaging in an improper sexual relationship with her by way of a legacy of $1 million.
In making its determination, the Court noted that the relationship, marriage and its breakdown had a serious impact on the rest of the former wife’s life, inadequate provision had been made for her (as she received nothing on intestacy), she was a person in need and the estate was sufficient to provide for her without having a significant adverse effect on the doctor’s daughter. The judge awarded a legacy of $750,000 by decision dated 25 January 2017.
This is a timely reminder that breaching the doctor/patient boundary can have a detrimental impact upon a doctor's life and the lives of others. It is advisable that doctors seek advice in relation to their professional obligations to their patients as part of their practice and, on a personal level, in the areas of wealth, tax and estate planning to ensure that your affairs are properly structured and to minimise the risk that your estate will not pass as you intend. TressCox Lawyers is happy to provide such advice.