Humans naturally want to look good to others, and I don’t mean just dropping ten pounds or changing your hair style. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that there are problems in our lives such as a child who is fighting alcohol addiction or a parent with Alzheimer’s. However, for your attorney to do her best job for you, she needs to know these things about you and your
Just like Las Vegas, things that you tell your attorney stay with your attorney. In order to protect your privacy and to encourage full disclosure of information, ethically your attorney may not disclose confidential communications between you and the attorney in the course of the attorney-client relationship. Generally, the client is the one who controls the release of the
information by either asserting or waiving the right to keep the information confidential. For instance, I once drafted estate documents for a woman who had a child in a foreign country that no one here knew about; I was not able to release that information. If a mutual friend asks me about your documents, I cannot tell them whom you have chosen as your trustee, how you
plan to distribute your estate or anything else about them.
There are several exceptions to this rule of confidentiality. I once prepared an estate plan for a woman who then died, and the grandchildren contested the validity of the documents. Even though I owed my client a duty of confidentiality during her lifetime, after her death
and in order to help honor her wishes, I was able to talk about her condition and intentions to support the documents that I had drafted for her. If you tell your attorney about a crime or
fraud you intend to commit or harm you intend to bestow on someone else, that communication is not privileged, and your attorney has the right to inform the appropriate authorities about the imminent harm to others.
Also, if you and your spouse hire one lawyer to prepare your estate plan, there is no confidentiality between you and your attorney with respect to your spouse. So, if there is
something about your estate planning that you do not wish your spouse to know about, don’t tell your attorney because that information is not confidential between you two.
However, exceptions rarely arise to an attorney’s duty to protect your confidentiality. So, tell
your attorney all the relevant information, including the embarrassing or unfortunate things. It may help her help you, and that’s what you pay for.
Originally published by Susan on July 1, 2013.