We’re finally approaching the end of 2020, which has been a challenging year for many of us. It’s no easy task to maintain a practice while keeping ourselves and our clients safe in the midst of a deadly pandemic. We’ve had to take crash courses in how effectively to work remotely and help clients who are suddenly faced with their own mortality. Not to mention the difficulty of planning when the political situation was uncertain due to a pending election. Hopefully, in 2021, we’ll have a better sense of what to expect in terms of any new laws affecting estate planning.
Despite all this upheaval, we still have our jobs to do. This month, we’re debuting a new committee on our editorial advisory board: Estate Litigation. Practitioners work with their clients to create the perfect estate plan that will stand the test of time. But, in certain cases, things don’t work out as planned, and your client ends up in court. One reason for this result is when a client has been the target of undue influence. A classic example is when a caretaker takes advantage of an elderly client with dementia and gets the client to change their will in favor of the caretaker. The client’s children who were expecting an inheritance won’t be happy about this, and litigation ensues. In their article “Litigating an Undue Influence Case?” p. 40, Jay W. Freiberg and David L. Barres lay out what courts consider to be the badges of undue influence. Whatever type of estate litigation you’re preparing for, it’s important to be mindful of the attorney-client privilege and to warn your client against inadvertently waiving it. In his article “Attorney-Client Privilege,”
p. 46, Jeremy Mellitz provides guidance on how to educate your clients about this important topic. Of course, it’s best if your clients can avoid litigation altogether, and Holly O’Neill explains how to do just that in “Practice Tips to Stave Off Disputes in Trust and Estate Administrations,” p. 36.
Happy New Year, and best wishes for a brighter 2021!