When the attorney shuts you out

January 9, 2017

Family caregivers are often surprised to be told to stay in the waiting room when bringing their loved ones to an attorney for creating a will or trust. If you are the one paying for the visit, this can be even more surprising!

As much as you want to help your relative, the attorney is actually doing you all a favor by blocking you out of the process. The most common lawsuit for contesting a will or trust involves a family member accusing another of “undue influence”. This accusation is not as likely to stick if the attorney meets with the relative alone.

The four Cs of ethical conduct
The job of an attorney is to be an advocate for the client’s wishes, and ONLY the client’s. The American Bar Association says in order to do that, attorneys must follow four principles.

Client Identification. Attorneys need to be sure everyone knows “who is the client”. If you are paying the bill, the client is still your relative.

Conflict of interest. Most often, attorneys will only accept one member of a family as a client. This allows the attorney to go to bat fully for that one client and not to be tugged by obligations to other clients. (An exception may be made in the case of a married couple. The law views them as a single entity.)

Confidentiality. Any discussions between an attorney and client are private, unless the client makes specific requests and gives permission for others to be involved. Confidentiality is why an attorney may not be able to share information with you.

Competency. Because a lot of elders have memory loss issues, the attorney must determine if the client is able to understand the consequences of their decisions. The best way to assess a client is to meet with them alone.