Why Do I Have to Stay in the Waiting Room???

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in,
Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.
Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”

Remember this from your childhood??

The Big Bad Wolf who wanted in to the little pigs houses…

At times I have to keep potential “Wolves” out of my conference room…

It starts innocently enough – son or daughter, niece or nephew, caregiver or friend brings someone to my office to talk about their estate plan…

I need to meet PRIVATELY with my client or potential client…

As an attorney – everything my client or potential client tells me is Confidential…

It is protected by something called the Attorney-Client Privilege.

Only the Client can break the privilege.

When the client allows others into the meeting with an attorney they are breaching the privilege as to that person & the matters discussed in their presence.

The attorney still has to keep the privilege…

BUT once a privilege has been breached – it may open the door for others to discover that information in the event of litigation.

FAR more importantly though – from my point of view & the type of law I help people with – is the need for me to meet PRIVATELY with my client who wants to create or update an estate plan in order that:

#1 – I can ascertain that that person has CAPACITY to do the plan.

In order to sign legal documents an adult person must UNDERSTAND what they are doing… They need to know WHO their family is (even if they don’t want to leave them anything) AND they need to have an idea of WHAT they own.

If helpful friend or relative is in the room – how can I really know if my client knows this info on their own or only with the helpful cues of their companion…

#2 – I need to insure that the person is free from UNDUE INFLUENCE.

If I am meeting with Jane and she tells me she wants to leave her entire estate to Joe – who is sitting in on our meeting – even though she has three other kids… HOW in the world could I ever testify that leaving it all to Joe was 100% Jane’s wish???

One of the benefits of using an attorney to prepare your estate plan is that that Attorney is the ULTIMATE witness as to whether or not the plan is truly the intent of the creator.

I have been deposed after the death of a client & had to testify under oath as to the circumstances of our meetings & the validity of the wishes…

IF I never meet privately with a client – how can I EVER be certain that this is really what they wanted???

#3 – I need to insure that my client is free from DURESS.

If I am meeting with Jane and she is telling me to put Joe in charge of everything & to keep her other three kids out of all positions… And Joe is sitting in the room… HOW do I know that Joe is not threatening his mom…? How do I know that he won’t hurt her or beat her up if she doesn’t do what he wants?

If I never meet privately with my client it is much harder to specifically ask if she is being bullied or threatened…

That doesn’t mean others can never come in the room… And it doesn’t mean that others aren’t potentially helpful to the overall situation.  BUT it does mean that I get to control the meetings and the timing so that I can protect my client & the work that they are paying me to do.

The bottom line for me is that I always need to be able to ensure (and possibly testify) that the client’s wishes are fulfilled.  All other parties and their interests and their concerns are irrelevant to me at that time.  And the only sure way for me to be able to testify to this in the future is by having private sessions with my client.

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