By Shereen Siewert
A Wausau attorney has been publicly reprimanded and ordered to pay more than $26,000 in costs for misconduct in two matters, the State Bar of Wisconsin reported last month.
The reprimand is the third against Jeffery J. Drach, a certified elder law attorney in Wausau.
According to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Drach violated fee and trust accounting rules in one case when preparing estate planning documents in 2011 for a woman and her husband.
The OLR said Drach prepared the documents with the assumption the husband would predecease the woman. The woman became ill several years later and died first.
After the woman’s death, Drach worked on asset preservation and trust administration matters on the husband’s behalf. Drach did not have a written hourly fee agreement for either category of work, the OLR summary states. Also, the couple’s son, who had power of attorney for the father, signed a flat fee agreement for Drach to help prepare a medical assistance application for his father.
By charging an additional $975 in 2011 for life planning work when the work was actually for the transferring of assets without disclosing to the woman and her husband the basis or rate of the hourly fees, by failing to enter into a written fee agreement for asset preservation work in 2014, and by failing to enter into a written fee agreement for representation relating to trust administration, in each instance, Drach violated state rules, the OLR said.
Drach failed to provide the woman’s son with the anticipated date of withdrawal of funds from trust to pay fees in November and December 2014, failed to provide a written trust account balance in November 2014, failed to provide an accurate written trust account balance in December 2014, and estimated future noncontingent fees, withdrawing them from the trust account before they were earned in December 2014, the OLR summary states. Each instance was considered a violation.
In a second matter, state officials say Drach prepared estate planning documents for an elderly woman who had a husband with Alzheimer’s disease and two adult daughters. Drach completed the work covered in the flat fee agreement in 2010. In 2014, one of the daughters, who was named power of attorney, became gravely ill and asked Drach to review her mother’s documents to ensure things were in order. Drach did not have the daughter sign any agreement setting forth the nature of the legal work he would perform, nor did he discuss whether the legal work would be done on a flat fee or hourly basis. The daughter died several days after meeting with Drach.
Drach performed work on the woman’s file, and over time increased the hourly rate charged by his office without providing notice of the changes, according to the OLR. By performing legal work on the woman’s file in 2014 and 2015 for estate planning without a written fee agreement and by failing to communicate in writing any changes to the basis or rate of the hourly fees related to the trust administration legal work, in each instance, Drach violated state rules.
Drach also received a public reprimand in 2002 and a private reprimand in 2008. The most recent reprimand happened in December and was published in October on the State Bar of Wisconsin website.
Efforts to reach Drach for comment were not immediately successful.