I have had a couple of instances in the last few days where we have a new client where a house call will be in order. The client, or their spouse or child, ask “why.” They don’t want to spend the extra money for an attorney to go to their house. Let me explain the value of the house call and how much it improves the effectiveness of the wills, trusts and other legal documents. If a client is in a place in life where they can’t get out of the house they may also have a mental deficiency… or just the assumption that they have one. However, once these documents are contested the homebound client will most likely be dead and thus they won’t be here to explain how mentally competent they are. The arguments will fly, fast and furious, that they were of diminished capacity or that they were under undue influence. How can we prevent that?
When an estate planning lawyer meets with a client they generally write notes about the background of the meeting. Maybe the fact that the attorney met alone with the client or that the client was able to answer some questions. The questions they are asked will show that they understood the nature of their assets, who their family is, and other questions like that. The attorney will likely ask some general questions like who the president is as well. Basically the attorneys notes can be vital if that will or trust is ever contested. In fact, I believe it is much less likely to be contested at all if an attorney was involved in the drafting and, especially, if there was at least one face to face meeting.
Now, sometimes the people just don’t want to spend money for a face to face meeting or it just won’t work for some other reason. This is not to say the meeting is required but it’s good practice for sure.
If you have a homebound loved one make sure they get the best legal care possible. If they can’t travel to the attorney’s office please consider at least one home visit if not two (one for planning and one for signing). Failure to do so puts the documents at risk!