In my last post, I highlighted a recent discussion on our Academy Listserv, and talked about the concerns of some of our Members who choose not to provide their clients with electronic copies of estate planning documents.
On the other side of the argument are our Members who do provide electronic copies to their clients, either as a normal part of their estate planning package, or on request. These Members tend to approach the issue with a focus on the service they’re providing to clients. Their take on “self-medicating” clients is that those clients who want to take this approach will find a way, pdf file or not.
One Member summed up his thoughts on the matter in this way:
“If the clients are so motivated, the changes will be made no matter what our office policy may be. The difference between our office scanning the documents and providing them to the client in pdf form and providing only their original paper documents is the clients’ use of a personal scanner. These can be bought for less than $100.00 at any office supply store. Unfortunately, all we are doing is saving them the step of scanning the documents themselves, which they can then convert to MS Word and make the changes.
All we can be responsible for is the actions we take in our office. If the clients want to mess things up by “self-medicating” down the road, I guess that’s their problem… or at least their heirs’ problem!
And what about potential liability?
At least one of our Members includes a statement in his firm’s fee agreement that warns clients of the potential consequences of attempting to make changes to documents, states that the client agrees not to make changes to documents without attorney assistance, and has the client waive liability in the event that unauthorized changes are made to the document.
Where do you stand on this topic? And, have you had experiences with “self-medicating” clients?
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
6050 Santo Rd., Ste. 240
San Diego, CA 92124