The Legal Consultation
You might find yourself feeling somewhat anxious about walking into a lawyer’s office for a legal consultation. This is understandable as often you are there to discuss private matters which can play an important role in your life. You may not know the lawyer and some legal offices can be a little daunting.
The Role of the Lawyer
The skill of a good lawyer is to make you feel comfortable enough to be able to tell him/ her as much as you can about the matter you are seeking advice on. The role of the lawyer is to ask relevant questions to ensure that comprehensive instructions are obtained which will enable the lawyer to perform the duties necessary to provide you with sound legal advice. This may involve asking questions about things which you may think are not relevant, however in legal terms they may be extremely relevant in ensuring that the advice you are paying for is not going to leave you in a worse off position down the track and is in your best interests.
Often couples will both attend a consultation, especially when it comes to instructing the lawyer to draft a will(s). It is protocol, and best practice, to always see clients alone. If someone other than the client sits in on a consultation, not only might legal professional privilege be lost, but importantly the client runs the risk of a potential allegation of undue influence which could affect the validity of the will.
The lawyer will need to ask questions concerning your assets and liabilities, the members of your family and other personal questions in relation to the relationship between family members and their circumstances. These questions are absolutely necessary. For instance, not all assets are transferred under the will. (e.g. jointly held assets/ property may not be transferred under the will). Some assets need to be treated in different ways to ensure that they are transferred to the correct beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. Taxation issues may also need to be addressed.
Particular care needs to be taken if you are intending not to provide for a direct family member or you wish to leave unequal gifts to them.
Consequences of not following Best Practice
Shortcuts and not following best practice can lead to a range of unexpected consequences. Assets may not be dealt with; gifts can lapse or go to unintended beneficiaries; the will may be invalid or challenged in Court – to name but a few. All of these matters can lead to long delays in administering the estate, to considerable expenses being incurred, and to emotional turmoil between family members at a time when they are already suffering from grief.
No Room for Offence when you are asked to Leave the Room
So next time your lawyer asks you to leave the room while they interview your spouse alone, you can be thankful that they are doing their job in accordance with best practice. You can always talk about it afterwards if you wish, with the comfort of knowing that your lawyer has carried out their duties with your best interests in mind.
The information in this article is merely a guide and is not meant to be a detailed explanation of the law and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend you consult with a solicitor in relation to your specific circumstances.