A Westby attorney could face a 60-day suspension for mishandling money owed to the heirs of a woman’s estate.
According to a complaint filed Nov. 25 by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, Gregory Lunde violated five rules of professional conduct in the handling of a Westby woman’s estate. He was administrator for the estate starting in 2002, according to the complaint.
The woman, who died in 2001, was enrolled in a group life insurance plan through her employer, and her two children, then ages 14 and 17, were beneficiaries under the plan, according to the OLR. In 2004, the insurance company transferred the money from the life insurance policy into Lunde’s trust account, and Lunde stated to the court that the estate had $12,668.54 to be divided equally among the woman’s two children.
In 2012, one of the children asked an aunt to help him access the money. Both called Lunde throughout the summer and fall of 2012, either leaving messages with Lunde’s secretary or leaving voicemails. The aunt spoke with the Register in Probate for Vernon County, who called Lunde and told him that the aunt wanted to see him. But Lunde said he did not have time, took down the aunt’s number but never called, according to the OLR.
The OLR sent three letters to Lunde between November 2012 and February 2013 about the matter, informing Lunde that a grievance had been filed against him. Lunde did not respond, and the OLR asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to temporarily suspend his law license. The court granted the request on May 13, 2013
Lunde finally responded on May 28, 2013, and explained that he did not immediately respond because he could not locate his file for the estate after closing his private practice and becoming Vernon County Corporation Counsel, according to the complaint. Once Lunde started cooperating with OLR, the Supreme Court reinstated his license on June 5, 2013.
Lunde later told the OLR that he could not find his trust account register, and he said he assumed that there was enough money in the account to disburse the amount owed to the woman’s child. However, records from the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation Inc. showed that $1,937.30 was left in the account.
According to the OLR, Lunde did not explain why the amount in the account was less than what was stated in the 2004 letter. On June 6, 2014, Lunde wrote to the OLR that he would pay the child the money after confirming his identity.
Sometime between December 2014 and April, Lunde sent a check for $6,334.27, half the amount Lunde received from the insurance company after expenses, to the child. The check was drawn from Lunde’s personal account.
The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Lunde’s license for 60 days.
Lunde could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
He earned his degree from Drake University Law School and was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1981. His license is in good standing, according to the Wisconsin State Bar and Office of Lawyer Regulation websites. Lunde was publicly reprimanded in 1992 for failing to provide competent, diligent representation to a client in a divorce matter and failing to respond to the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility, the OLR’s predecessor.Follow @erikastrebel