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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 121

Adopted September 25, 1936

The following inquiry has been submitted to the Board:

"Is it ethical for a member of the bar, in handling the probate of an estate, to arrange with the appraisers to appraise and put a valuation on the property of the estate at a much lower figure than it was worth, in order that the estate would not be required to pay an inheritance tax to the State of Oklahoma: and is it proper for him to take his efforts in this respect into consideration in fixing his fee?"

In response:

It was in respect to such an inquiry that it was said in the preface to Vol. 1 of Advisory Opinions:

"To the older members of the bar and to those members schooled in the best traditions of the profession some questions asked may appear to be frivolous or the answers thereto obvious. The Board reserves the right to reject or ignore questions of that character; but at the same time those questions so appearing to some members of the bar may really present serious problems to the younger members of the bar who have been without the advantage of ethical training. The Board will therefore be slow to construe a question as frivolous or the answer thereto to be obvious."

The conduct proposed in the inquiry would constitute a fraud upon the county court and upon the State of Oklahoma and would subject the offending member of the bar to disbarment.

It ought not be necessary to refer to that part of Rule 17 of the Rules of Professional Conduct which provides:

"The office of attorney does not permit, much less does it demand of him for any client, violation of law or any manner of fraud or chicane."

The foregoing answers the second part of the inquiry in the negative.