As estate planning attorneys, we help our clients develop estate plans, or how they plan to manage and pass along their wealth and property after they die. What people may not realize, however, is that sometimes our job extends past death, as in the case of what happens when family members challenge the terms of a Will or Trust.
Our loyalty is always with our client, which means that your attorney-client privilege will survive you, even after your death. This should provide you with some reassurance that any disinherited heirs or other family members cannot pick apart your estate plan or obtain private communications you hold with us, your attorney, in order to challenge the Will or Trust. This private information includes verbal, written and recorded communications.
However, not everyone can challenge a Will or Trust, according to basic probate laws, only “interested persons” may, and only for valid reasons. Interested persons may include children, heirs, spouses, devisees, creditors or anyone else who may have a property right or claim against the estate, and generally fall into one of three categories: the beneficiaries of a prior will or a subsequent will and intestate heirs.
According to our code of legal ethics, our duty continues post-representation in perpetuity, even after the client is deceased. A lawyer may, however, disclose the deceased client’s information if the lawyer believes the decedent would have wanted the information disclosed if he or she were still alive. In addition, a lawyer may disclose confidential information to the decedent’s successor (their executor or trustee) when it is necessary to facilitate administration of the decedent’s estate.
Have Questions About Your Estate Plan? Contact Us.
There are many questions about ethics when it comes to the law, and what an attorney can and cannot legally do, and what you can rely on. We would be glad to answer any questions you might have.
If you are just setting up your estate plan, or have questions about your existing documents, we encourage you to contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We specialize in estate planning law. Contact us today.