For this vignette, imagine that dear Aunt Gertrude is slipping mentally, but she is okay, day to day. Gertrude’s husband Joe and Aunt Gertrude have been married for over 40 years. Joe is fit as a fiddle. Aunt Gertrude appointed her niece Milly on her Power of Attorney document because she thought it would be best to have someone younger as her agent.

Today, Uncle Joe and Aunt Gertrude see the attorney about some estate planning matters – they are looking to the future when Gertrude may need to be cared for in a nursing home. Uncle Joe and the attorney talk about Gertrude’s care. Gertrude chimes in a little, with the attorney taking the lead in most of the conversation.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Uncle Joe thanks the attorney, and says that he will continue to care for his wife for as long as he can, and that he will come back and see the attorney ‘when the time comes.’

After they leave the meeting, the attorney invites Milly in to his office. There, he tells her “You have the power of attorney. You can commit your Aunt Gertrude to nursing care. I can help you.” He then asks the client for a $15,000 retainer because he is a ‘specially trained’ attorney who can help dear Aunt Gertrude. “And, of course, you can use Aunt Gertrude’s money because this is, after all ‘for her best interest.’

Can an attorney go around behind someone’s back like that? Can a lawyer use confidential information that was learned in a conversation with a client against the person who gave them that information? No and no. But this story is not fiction. Be sure you have a good relationship with your attorney. Go to someone you trust, and who is willing to work with you for your loved one’s best interest.

Please contact Mateya Law Firm to help you with your estate planning and administration needs.