Thursday, March 11, 2010

CLIENT CONFIDENTIALITY: HOW DOES THAT WORK?

As an attorney, I owe my clients a duty of confidentiality concerning infor-mation that they communicate to me.

In a court setting this duty is enforced under the Evidence Code through the Attorney-Client privilege.

One of the most common challenges for an estate planning attorney like myself is when I receive a call or email from one of the adult children of my client who is asking for information about their parent's estate plan or finances.

Unless the client has waived the privilege, that is, the client has specificly OKed me to speak with a particular family member or party, I have to refuse to speak to the adult child.

A client can waive the confidentiality a number of ways.  One of the most common ways is when the client brings a family member with them to meet with me and they express to me their desire that the family member sit in and hear all of the discussion, and that it is OK for me to speak with that family member in the future.

A more formal method is to sign a "Release of Information" statement which goes into their file in my office.   This allows me the ability to review the file to determine that the person calling me on the phone or emailing me is entitled to receive information about the client's estate plan, finances, and decisions.

It can often be very helpful for clients to allow the adult children to communicate with me and vica-versa, however, I need to be directed to so, otherwise the duty of confidentiality prevents me from speaking with the child.

When I am unsure, I will call the client and ask if I can return the call or send an email response.

It is a simple matter of letting your estate planning attorney know of your desires.

If you are interested in this subject, or other information concerning estate planning, please visit my website at:

DWIGHT EDWARD TOMPKINS
Attorney at Law

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction.

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