Appeals court extends attorney-client privilege

People turn to attorneys for estate planning for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the assurance that information exchanged in the process is protected from disclosure.
“A fundamental principle in the client-lawyer relationship is that, in the absence of the client’s informed consent, the lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation. … ,” according to the American Bar Association. “This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship.”
This level of confidentiality regarding a lawyer’s handling of estate planning was recently extended by an appeals court in Illinois, according to the website
“An estate planning attorney who is being sued by a client’s beneficiaries for legal malpractice can assert attorney-client privilege on correspondence between the attorney and the client’s bank that took place before the client’s death because the bank was acting as an agent for the client, according to an Illinois appeals court,” the site stated.
The attorney in question, Frank Greenfield, drafted wills and trusts for a husband and wife, Leonard and Muriel Perry.
“Mr. Perry’s will gave Mrs. Perry a power of appointment,” according to the article. “After Mr. Perry died, Mr. Greenfield amended Mrs. Perry’s will for her, but he forgot to include language indicating she was using her power of appointment. Mr. Greenfield realized his error after Mrs. Perry died, and he notified the beneficiaries.
“A group of beneficiaries sued Mr. Greenfield for legal malpractice, claiming that his error deprived them of money Mrs. Perry intended them to receive. The beneficiaries filed discovery requests, and Mr. Greenfield claimed attorney-client privilege on several documents, including correspondence with the bank that was the co-trustee of Mrs. Perry’s trust. The beneficiaries attempted to subpoena the bank to produce the documents, but the bank also refused. The trial court issued sanctions against the Mr. Greenfield for failing to comply with discovery. Mr. Greenfield appealed.”
The appeals court ruled in the lawyer’s favor, in part, siding with him that correspondence with the bank was privileged communication as long as Muriel Perry was alive.

How To Decide When It’s Necessary To ‘Lawyer Up’

“You’ll need an attorney for this journey,” Tom Waits wrote in one of his songs.
But just when is it necessary to pull that trigger? People struggle with this question all the time, and even lawyers understand this can be a difficult decision to make.
“The United States has more lawyers per person than any other country,” points out an article on the website “So, if you need one, and many of us do at one time or another, you should be able to find one who will provide the best professional counsel at the fairest price.
“Some matters not involving substantial amounts of money or property may be handled without the aid of a lawyer. However, in deciding whether to use a lawyer, you need to make a judgment, based on your own experiences and those of knowledgeable friends or relatives.”
While the website is obviously geared to older Americans, the questions the article says people should ask themselves in concluding whether the journey requires an attorney are valid for everyone, regardless of age.
They include:

  • Is the matter a complex legal issue or one that is likely to be taken to court?
  • Is a large amount of money, property, or time involved?
  • Does the matter require the filing of complex legal papers, such as complex wills?
  • Is an estate being resolved involving significant amounts of money?
  • Are there serious tax problems?
  • Does the matter involve an accident that caused an injury or death?
  • Is there a divorce being contested?
  • Has significant damage been done to property?
  • Are you planning on home equity conversion?