Top 10 ethical challenges facing estate planning practitioners today

May 18, 2016

By Charles D. Fox IV

Practicing in the estate planning field, while enjoyable and professionally rewarding, is also challenging. One of the most satisfying or alluring aspects of the estate planning field is the ability to practice in many different areas of the law. Estate planners, to be able to give clients the appropriate advice and counsel and to have successful practices, must be proficient in drafting, trust and estate administration, tax law, corporate law, partnership law, real estate law and different aspects of litigation.

While this ability to practice in different areas of the law makes estate planning attractive to many practitioners, it also exposes estate planners to a wide array of ethical issues in their practices. Individuals can disagree on which ethical rules pose the greatest difficulty to estate planners in their practices. Below are 10 ethical areas, which, if violated, will most likely expose the estate planner to disciplinary complaints by clients.

The 10 areas presenting the greatest ethical challenges to estate planning attorneys are:

1. Representing clients who reside in a state in which the estate planning attorney is not licensed.

2. Representing multiple parties such as husbands and wives or family members in different generations.

3. Representing clients in various asset protection strategies.

4. Making sure that the representation of a client is effective and timely and keeping the client informed of the work.

5. Charging reasonable fees for the work.

6. The lawyer who represents a client permitting or soliciting the client to name the lawyer as a fiduciary in the client’s estate planning documents or being the recipient of gifts from clients.

7. Dealing with the obligation to report the failure to disclose information on tax or other returns.

8. Representing clients with diminished capacity.

9. Obtaining releases from clients for malpractice or possible self-dealing.

10. Handling issues arising in the age of electronic communications such as metadata.

Join Charles Fox and other estate planning attorneys at the 29th Annual Conference on Wealth Transfer June 1 at the Marriott Columbus University Area.



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