A senior Dunedin lawyer has been suspended from practising
for six months after admitting to falsifying a will by
Helen Davidson, who unsuccessfully sought name suppression
when she appeared before the New Zealand Lawyers and
Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, was suspended for six
months and ordered to pay $18,644 in costs to the Law Society
The disciplinary hearing was on December 17 at Dunedin
International Airport with the suspension beginning shortly
after. It will end on June 13.
The tribunal noted she had made ''no personal gain'' from her
The allegation came to light ''months after'' the incident
happened, when the daughter of the woman whose will was
falsified told another lawyer about the backdating, with that
lawyer, in turn, notifying the Law Society, which launched an
It is understood Ms Davidson is on extended leave from her
central-city employer, Polson McMillan Lawyers, and attempts
to contact her yesterday were unsuccessful. A partner in the
firm, David Polson, said when contacted Ms Davidson would be
returning to work at the end of June, and her clients were
being looked after by the firm in the meantime.
According to a New Zealand Law Society report on the hearing,
Ms Davidson was ''instructed'' by a family member to prepare
a ''revised will'' for a woman in residential care, possibly
because the woman ''may no longer have testamentary
A daughter of the woman suggested to Ms Davidson the will's
execution be backdated ''to avoid any argument with the
Public Trustee'', about the woman's testamentary capacity.
The daughter noted that the Public Trustee ''was being
replaced'', the report said.
Weeks earlier, a GP had provided a medical certificate,
regarding the woman's capacity for enduring power of
attorney, which was granted to a son-in-law.
''[The woman's daughter] considered there was a risk that the
GP's certificate might cause the Public Trustee to question
the validity of the revised will and to suggest that the will
it held should prevail,'' the Law Society reported.
Ms Davidson ''deliberately backdated'' the revised will to
''a false date'' when it was executed, the society reported.
Submissions to the tribunal on Ms Davidson's behalf were that
the backdating was an error of judgement, she made no
personal gain, but had ''succumbed on the spur of the
moment'' to family pressure to ensure the Public Trustee was
The tribunal was reported to have said it did not consider Ms
Davidson's actions to be a ''momentary lapse in judgement'',
but a ''deliberate decision taken for a particular purpose''.
The tribunal said ''the appropriate regulatory response to
this misconduct is removal from practice'' with suspension of
''at least 12 months'' the starting point.
However, because of Ms Davidson's ready acknowledgement'' of
wrongdoing, co-operation with the investigating standards
committee and her ''remorse and contrition'', she was
suspended for six months, and ordered to pay Crown and Law
Ms Davidson's application for permanent name suppression was
declined, the tribunal saying she had not made a sufficient
case to displace the usual openness of the tribunal process.