A California attorney has agreed to accept disbarment after admitting to taking $275,000 in inheritance money from an elderly client.
Sydney Kirkland, a solo practitioner in Escondido, Calif., agreed to pay more than $275,600 plus 10 percent annual interest starting from February 3, 2011, the date on which Kirkland’s client began losing money from her client trust account, according to a stipulation she reached with the State Bar of California.
Kirkland, who represented herself in the matter, did not return a call for comment.
According to the stipulation, Kirkland served as estate attorney and successor co-trustee to the estate of Jeanette Letman, who died on January 15, 2011. Letman left her estate to her longtime companion, Grover Gordon Jr., now 80 years old. But by December 6, 2011, more than $285,700 intended for Gordon had dwindled to about $10,000. Kirkland had transferred money to her husband and other unrelated parties, and to a business account unrelated to the trust, according to the stipulation.
Some of the money, according to the bar, Kirkland used to pay personal bills and payments on an Audi.
Gordon hired another attorney, Robin Cahill, a solo practitioner in La Jolla, Calif., to initiate probate proceedings and, on October 17, 2011, a San Diego County, Calif., Superior Court judge suspended Kirkland’s powers as co-trustee; judgment was entered for Gordon last year.
Following the initial suspension order, more than $37,000 disappeared from the trust account, according to the bar. "That’s probably the most shocking aspect of it," State Bar trial counsel Kristin Ritsema said.
The bar declared on January 19 that Kirkland was ineligible to practice law, pending her disbarment. She had been admitted to practice law in California in 2001.
In September, the San Diego County, Calif., district attorney’s office charged Kirkland with three felonies: Grand theft, fraudulent appropriation by a trustee and financial elder abuse. Kirkland has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a jury trial is scheduled for May 14.
Kirkland’s attorney, Thomas Warwick, of Grimes & Warwick in San Diego, did not return a call for comment.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at firstname.lastname@example.org.