It seems like my phone buzzes every week with a “breaking news” alert about a high profile couple separating or getting a divorce. Most recently, the news was that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and his wife had signed a separation agreement after an 18-year marriage. If a couple hasn’t done proper planning, the pending divorce can get very complicated. And estate-planning attorneys, especially those representing high-net-worth clients, can help their clients avoid some of these complications. Ethical issues can arise when the attorney represents both spouses. To avoid this situation, the attorney should consider various factors before agreeing to jointly represent both spouses. These factors are detailed in “Ethical Considerations for Advising the (Un)Happily Married,” p. 52, by Elizabeth R. Carter. The article also notes that marital discord or a pending divorce is one of the main reasons to terminate a joint representation.
Later-in-life (or gray divorces) can also be problematic, especially when adult children are involved. In “Issues Involving Adult Children in a Gray Divorce,” p. 60, by Ella R. Cohen and Thomas A. Benhamou, the authors warn that involving adult children in the divorce (for example, as a go-between) can lead to its own set of complications that attorneys need to watch out for. In addition, divorcing couples who have spousal lifetime access trusts (SLATs) may face unexpected and undesirable consequences if they haven’t done proper planning. “Access Denied: Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts in Divorce,” p. 56, by Christen K. Douglas and Joseph J. Viviano, lays out the careful drafting of SLATs that’s required to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Our issue this month also includes an article that deals with ethical issues created by a different situation that’s become more prevalent recently: attorneys from different firms sharing office space. In “Ethics Considerations When Entering Into Office Sharing Arrangements,” p. 40, Martin M. Shenkman, Thomas A. Tietz and Jonathan G. Blattmachr discuss the recently issued ABA Formal Opinion 507, which covers the need to maintain client confidentiality when using these types of shared office arrangements.