Review Ethical Implications of Estate Planning

May 7, 2012 — 1,173 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

There are no rules directly relating to estate planning ethics, but that doesn't mean many legal professionals don't follow their own standards when working with clients. According to Trusts & Estates, there are 10 states that follow the American Bar Association's Model Code of Professional Conduct, guidelines that help define activities or behaviors that could be considered fraudulent or illegal. Providing ethical counsel can be challenging for attorneys, but reviewing this code could help them understand the implications of their actions.

Check out the list below to understand how the Model Code of Professional Conduct may assist legal professionals when dealing with estate planning clients.

Ethical considerations
It's important to consider the background of estate planning when assisting a client. He or she may consult a lawyer to create a will, name beneficiaries and set up funeral arrangements. Many of the issues can be complex, so taking the time to understand the needs of your clientele could prove valuable.

The Model Code of Professional Conduct outlines six tenets that lawyers can apply to this situation. Conduct your operations with high moral standards as you consider the ethics of estate planning. You can display courtesy and professionalism when you discuss a client's estate. This could require additional effort and time on your part as you explain a person's estate planning options.

For example, a client could get emotional when discussing a delicate issue like planning his or her funeral. In this scenario, it may be helpful to lend an empathetic ear to help him or her deal with the reality of the situation. This can provide numerous benefits, including helping the client feel more comfortable in your office and developing a long-term relationship.

Disciplinary rules
The Model Code of Professional Conduct includes a section relating to standards attorneys can follow to guarantee the profession's integrity and competency. These include avoiding illegal activities such as deceit, dishonesty or any other form of conduct that reflects negatively on a person's ability to practice law.

While some of these guidelines may sound simple, failing to follow them can be detrimental when dealing with clients' estate planning. Many people have spent their lives building savings that they may choose to pass on to loved ones, and lawyers owe it to clients to invest the resources necessary to effectively perform this task. Follow the Model Code of Professional Conduct to display ethics when assisting your clients with estate planning.