Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Why can’t I bring my adult child to my initial consultation?

Joseph S. Karp

When somebody comes in to meet with us to discuss their estate plan, frequently they are brought there and accompanied by a loved one. Sometimes, that loved one is the child that they trust the most, or the one who’s just able to drive them. Sometimes that person’s a helpful neighbor, but frequently, it’s a child. We have a policy in our office: We always bring the client in alone, first. We even have a handout that says why we’re excluding that person: It’s called “Why the Waiting Room?”

Why the waiting room? There are a number of reasons. Number one, we want the person we are meeting with to know that they have total privileged communication. Number two, they need to know that if the other person comes into the room they are waiving that right, and they may not want that to happen. Sometimes the client may have private information that the person in the waiting room doesn’t even know. Sometimes a child who is bringing in the parent is doing it because the parent wants to change their estate plan – not just to make sure everything’s going equally, but sometimes they’re cutting out a child, or reducing or giving favored treatment to the child that’s there, changing who their principals are. We want to make sure that when the person in the waiting room comes in, we’ve had that whole conversation with our prospective client alone, so that if there’s later a challenge where somebody says, “My brother or sister was in with the lawyer the whole time,” we can say: “No, that person was not. We are the witnesses that your parent made this decision freely and voluntarily, had the complete privacy that we could afford them, and we were comfortable they knew what they were doing and not unduly influenced.”