When you bring a family member or friend to meet with an elder law attorney, you might expect to sit in on the consultation. However, elder law attorneys need to meet with their clients alone for at least part of the consultation, so be prepared to spend time in the waiting room.
Although your instinct may be to sit in on your relative’s meeting with the attorney in order to help explain the relative’s situation, a new brochure from the American Bar Association explains why elder law attorneys need to meet with their clients without anyone else present. While elder law issues often involve lots of family members, usually the attorney can only represent one person without a conflict of interest arising. Even if you are the one paying the bill, the lawyer’s client — usually the older person — is going to be the person whose interests are at stake in the legal planning.
The attorney also has a duty to keep client information confidential, so he or she cannot give you information unless your relative agrees. Each client is different and the attorney needs to find out how much information the client wants shared.
One job of the elder law attorney is to assess a client’s competency. The attorney needs to know whether the client has the capacity to make decisions, and speaking privately with the client is the only way to make this determination. The attorney may need to check with you to get details, such as addresses or dates, but in general the attorney should be able to get most of the information from the client.
Keeping family members out of the discussion also helps to make it less likely the finished documents will be challenged. There are many cases where a family member is accused of having undue influence over someone in the making of a will or power of attorney. If you maintain some distance from the process, it is less likely that this will occur.
To read the brochure from the American Bar Association, click here.
To discuss elder law issues with an attorney, please call the Elder Law Center at 630-844-0065 or contact us via email. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.