Many times, a child or a friend will bring in a parent or another person to speak to one of our attorneys about preparing a Last Will and Testament or other important document. It is standard procedure for the attorney to exclude the child or other person from the conference room, at least initially. You may find yourself sitting alone in the waiting room wondering why.
First, please do not be offended. We do not intend to be rude, but we do not know you. The attorney is only following procedures set by the Rules of Attorney Ethics. Please understand that the attorney owes a number of duties to their client. The first one is the duty of protection. Counsel must determine if coming to the law office is the client’s idea, or if someone is pushing the client to have their Last Will prepared. Sometimes, we experience a child strong arming a parent to prepare a Last Will, and, as you might imagine, prepare it in a certain favorable way to the child. Additionally, after speaking with the client, counsel could become aware of circumstances in the family where one’s mere presence in the conference room could trigger a sibling or another person to later claim undue influence.
There could also be capacity issues. If the reason for the child accompanying the parent is due to memory issues, and the parent is relying upon the child for help, counsel must assess whether the parent has the capacity to sign a Last Will. If capacity is in question, another interested party can later claim that the Last Will is invalid. Counsel may have a recommendation on how to protect against such a claim.
Finally, there is the issue of attorney-client privilege. By having you in the room, the client cannot later claim that what was said at the meeting was “confidential”, between the client and the attorney. There are certain risks which must be examined.
If, after the attorney speaks with their client, and the attorney is satisfied that all is in order and the client waives the attorney-client privilege, you will be invited into the meeting. Of course, it is not unusual for a parent to ask that the child be present. We attorneys though, are required to make sure that it is in the client’s interest. Thank you for your understanding.
Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters. Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Shanahan & Voigt, LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.
Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors. Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and its Elder Law and Disability Section. He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Robert is a member of the Hunterdon Medical Center’s Bio Ethics Committee and was awarded a Five Star Financial Services Professional Award for 2016.
You may contact Bob at (908) 751-1551, or [email protected]
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS MERELY AN EDUCATIONAL SERVICE TO PROVIDE BASIC, GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OF ANY SORT. FURTHER, BY EXPLORING THIS INFORMATION, YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS BEING FORMED.