Estate Planning Blog

5 Things Your Estate Planning Attorney Can’t Do For You

As we all know, most attorneys go above and beyond to ensure their clients are overjoyed with their work; it is important to recognize that attorneys cannot bend rules to get clients out of every nightmare they come across. For years, I have prided myself on my team’s abilities to extricate our clients from any messes they have encountered or even caused. Unfortunately there are some things even I can’t help with – here are five of them for your amusement and enlightenment.

1. We Cannot Abuse Attorney-Client Privilege

Attorney-client privilege is a client’s right to refuse to disclose information that was confidentially shared between themselves and their lawyer. This law encourages clients to share information that will prompt the lawyer to better assist them in their representation. There are certain limitations to this privilege. First, a client cannot use the privilege to further a case of fraud, tort or crime. I can’t help people commit a crime, and keep secrets if they are planning to kill someone. I also can’t help their heirs if they name the wrong beneficiaries on the accounts or keep them out of probate if they don’t properly fund the trust.  If things in their life change and they don’t come in for an update, lawyers can’t be responsible for the big mess that will leave! Remember your lawyer’s legal limits when considering their lawyer-client privilege. Along with abusing privilege, lawyers can also not neglect it. Beneficiaries and clients are entitled to all the information shared between themselves and their lawyer.

2. We Cannot Represent Both a Trustee and a Beneficiary

When I represent the trustee or Executor, I can’t represent a beneficiary, and vice versa. These people will have wildly differing wishes that a single attorney cannot protect. An attorney is responsible for protecting clients but not in any manner that can disparage their clients, and this can include working with multiple clients. Along with this, a lawyer’s loyalty to their clients can be limited to responsibilities of those they formerly protected.

3. Cannot Be a Legal Entity

A trust involves the trustee, the property, and the beneficiary. Trustees and beneficiaries are legal persons who are capable of retaining respective legal counsels. However, since the owned property is not a legal being, neither trustees nor beneficiaries can represent “the trust” as an entity, and both parties must respect the other’s interests. Contact Law Offices of Joel Harris for further explanation of this limitation.

4. Cannot Show Biases

A bias should not be present in an attorney’s representation of a client. If a lawyer’s conduct in a case is tainted in any way, it can become next to impossible for the lawyer to properly represent the client. Discussions involving biases can limit a lawyer’s ability to represent the client and must be avoided. Finally, no sexual relations with clients are allowed because it is a breach of privacy and an extreme case of bias.

5. Cannot Have Any Conflicts of Interest

In the case of conflict of interest, this means that attorneys cannot represent multiple clients without the consent of each party. It is the attorney’s responsibility to get the consent of their clients while disclosing any possible conflicts. There is no excuse for conflict of interest even if the client matters are unrelated. An attorney must not represent two parties in a dispute and is bound by the American Bar Association rules to avoid even the appearance of conflict.  Rule 1.1 and 1.3 state that representation is prohibited if the terms lead to the lawyer being unable to properly represent their client.

Are You Worried about Your Estate Plan?

If you are not properly prepared and with a well-planned will, then your family could be vulnerable to higher tax bills, extensive legal fees, and familial conflicts. To avoid those obstacles you should visit an Estate Planning Attorney to get professional help, and create a plan that well suits your goals.

At The Law Offices of Joel A Harris , with locations in the cities of Concord, Walnut Creek, Antioch, California, we have worked for over 25 years giving the best guidance our clients need to protect their assets. Have a question about your planning your estate? Feel free to schedule a sit-down meeting where we are happy to patiently answer every question you may have. For your free consultation reach out to us at (925) 757-4605.


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