Helping Adult Children Understand WhyThey Have to Wait Outside
Every elderlaw attorney who meets with a client escorted to the office by his or her adultchild(ren) faces some potential ethics issues.
The firstethics issue is to define who is the client. The client is typically the senioradult in need of executing estate planning documents to ensure the propertransfer of assets upon passing or incapacity. This can often be confusing,especially if the adult child is paying for the attorney’s fees. Distancing an adult child from the conversation withhis or her parent- who is the actual client of the attorney—is an ethicalconsideration in representing the client(s) properly.
One of thefiduciary duties that an attorney owes to a client is the duty ofconfidentiality. A fundamental principle of an attorney’s relationship with aclient is that the attorney must not reveal any information related to therepresentation without the consent of the client. Building a trustingrelationship is essential in ensuring that full disclosures are made,especially information critical to the legal matter. For this reason, it isgenerally best to meet with the client alone and have the adult child remain inthe waiting room at least for some portion of the meeting.
The duty ofconfidentiality may be waived by the client. In the example above, parents arefree to waive confidentiality and request that the adult child be presentduring the consultation.
However, it is best for the elder law attorney to meet with the parents alone initially to discuss the concept of confidentiality so that the parents can provide informed consent to such waiver. For more information on estate planning in the Greater Baltimore area, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599.