“Do you or don’t you provide electronic copies of estate planning documents to your clients?” This subject recently sparked quite a discussion among several Academy Members on our Listserv. It turns out that our Members have a variety of policies when it comes to giving electronic copies of documents to their clients. Among the Members who joined in the discussion, the responses fell into three categories:
- Absolutely Not!
- Yes, But Only on Request
- Yes, As a Matter of Course
I thought I’d take some time in this blog to highlight some of the reasoning behind the “No” responses.
More than one of our Members has had the experience of a client taking an electronic copy, altering it, and unknowingly invalidating critical provisions of a Trust.
One member even ended up testifying in court because of his client’s attempted amendment to a Trust he had drafted. The attempted amendment? Changing the terms of the distribution. The attempted changes were made to the wrong Article of the Trust, and were ineffective. Of course, none of this was discovered until after the client passed away, and the estate ended up in litigation… not a pleasant situation for anyone involved.
Protecting clients from themselves seems to be the main concern of those Members who prefer to stick to providing only paper documents to clients. Another concern is potential liability when clients choose to “self-medicate” instead of seeking their attorneys’ guidance and counsel in amending estate planning documents.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the responses of our Members who choose to provide electronic copies of documents to their clients.
In the meantime, what’s your policy – and have you encountered any “self-medicating” clients?
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124