Dear Adult Child:
Thank you for accompanying your parent to our office.
We now invite you, in the nicest way possible, to leave our meeting. Please sit in the waiting area, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the magazines.
We need to speak with your parent alone. Here’s why:
If we are going to prepare documents from your parent, then he or she is our client. You are not. We have an attorney-client privilege with your parent. If you are in the room during our meeting, then you are jeopardizing that privilege.
But first we have to make sure that your parent has the mental capacity necessary to sign planning documents. There’s a sliding scale, from Trusts (which require a lot of capacity) down to Wills (which require the least). Somewhere on the scale falls Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Releases, and other ancillary documents.
We can’t make that determination without talking to your parent. Nothing personal, but you aren’t being helpful if you are in the room prompting answers and filling in the gaps for your parent. Some elderly people become very skillful at hiding capacity problems. Your parent may even have fooled you.
If we determine that your parent has capacity, then we can move forward with discussing the planning documents. This is touchy, too. We have to decide if your parent is making decisions unilaterally, or is being subjected to an “undue influence.” You or someone close to your parent may actually have an adverse interest to your parent. If you are in the room, then we can’t be sure that you aren’t influencing your parent’s answers.
Then we need to consider that your parent may want to tell us secret stuff during our meeting that you aren’t supposed to know. The stuff may be important. The stuff may not be important. Shoot, the stuff may not even be secret. None of that is the point. If your parent wants to tell us secret stuff, then we want and need to hear it without you being present.
Finally, the documents that we prepare belong to your parent. Your parent gets to decide when and to whom they should be disclosed. We don’t get to hand out copies willy-nilly.
We thank you in advance for your understanding and consideration. Please enjoy the coffee and magazines.
Every Estate Planning Attorney
Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.
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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.