When an older person wishes to update a will or make changes to other estate planning documents, it’s common for an adult child to accompany them to the lawyer’s office.
This situation makes sense: Many seniors have mobility challenges that require assistance. Others live with an adult child. Those on limited budgets may even need help paying for a lawyer.
When it’s time for mom or dad to actually talk to the lawyer, however, the meeting should happen in private, without the adult child in the room.
Although it’s wonderful to see adult children supporting and assisting their elderly parents, the attorney-client privilege must still be observed for the following reasons:
Maintaining Client Confidentiality
Lawyers have a professional duty to keep communications with their clients confidential. This rule applies no matter who is paying the lawyer’s bill. Adult children aren’t entitled to receive copies of letters or emails sent from the lawyer to the elderly parent, without the parent’s consent. Likewise, an adult child has no right to review or “look over” a parent’s will or other legal documents.
Assessing a Client’s Competence
An attorney must be able to determine if his or her client is of sound mind before allowing the client to sign any sort of legal document. This is sometimes an issue when preparing an elderly person’s estate planning documents. It’s important for the lawyer to make sure his client is mentally competent to make his or her own decisions. Sometimes, adult children have a habit of “translating” an elderly parent’s wishes or speaking on their behalf. This can hide the parent’s incapacity and even prevent the parent from speaking his or her mind for fear of offending the child.
Avoiding Estate Contests
Family dynamics can be complex, especially when estate issues are involved. In many cases, one adult child oversees an elderly parent’s care while other adult children are less involved. Unfortunately, this uneven dynamic can cause less involved children to feel jealous of the caretaker child’s relationship with the parent. They may even suspect that the caretaker child is exerting too much influence over the parent’s decisions.
Eventually, these suspicions can evolve into accusations of undue influence, which can lead to a will contest. Preserving the attorney-client privilege by speaking one-on-one with seniors can minimize this type of litigation.
Minnesota Estate Planning and Probate Law Firm
Call the Minnesota probate and estate planning attorneys at Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC today our office today to learn more and to discuss your options.
This website has been prepared by Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.