Those of a certain age may remember the famous quote from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” The line is spoken sarcastically by a prison captain to Luke Jackson (Cool Hand Luke), who’s working on a chain gang, after the captain screams at, hits and pushes Luke to the ground for talking back to him.
That line takes on new meaning in the context of estate planning. A failure to communicate with your client can lead to major problems if your client doesn’t understand what’s in the documents they’re signing. As Judge George F. Phelan explains in his article, “Improve Communication With Clients Who Have Limited English Proficiency,” p. 60, a court may invalidate a will if it’s shown that the client didn’t understand its contents. And as the foreign-born population in the United States increases, it’s more common for estate-planning professionals to come across clients with limited English proficiency (LEP). The article details the obligation attorneys have to communicate with their LEP clients and provides practical guidance to attorneys on what they should be doing to meet this obligation.
This month’s issue also includes our International Practice Committee Report, with articles on German probate and inheritance tax, recent developments in the British Overseas Territories and what formal steps green card holders must take to relinquish their U.S. residency status.