Too many attorneys make the mistake of not informing a person’s Power of Attorney, Health Care Agent or Executor that he/she has been named as a person’s agent or, even worse, not telling a client how to inform these people of their responsibilities. These practitioners appear to have the attitude of “I’ve been paid, you have your legal documents, let’s both move onto the next thing in our lives.”
While this does not rise to the level of legal malpractice, it certainly is inconsiderate and potentially dangerous:
- These documents are not public record. If there is an emergency, how is a Health Care Agent going to be identified by the admitting health care facility?
- The documents may be hard to find in the client’s home. Does the attorney have copies of the documents?
- \Many clients lack an on-going relationship with their attorney. Has the client’s agents been made aware that the client has worked with the attorney?
I recommend some of the following practices to ensure a client’s Agents can be found in the absence of finding his/her documents, and making sure emergency contact with the attorney can be accessed by such agents:
- The attorney can create an ICE Card [“In Case of Emergency”] which states the client’s agents, allergies, primary care physician, and attorney (as well as all of their phone numbers).
- The attorney can create a generic letter that the client signs and mails to their named agents introducing the attorney. Note that the letter need not state the exact nature of the Agent’s position, but instead merely includes the attorney’s name and contact information.
- Attorneys are required to keep copies of their work product for a varying number of years based on the state he/she is licensed in. They should keep a copy of all executed documents either physically or electronically (or both).
- The attorney should inform the client of suitable places to keep executed documents, such as in a safe or fireproof cabinet that can be easily accessible in case of emergency, but solid enough to protect the document’s contents and confidentiality when the client is in good health.
Taking even a few of these simple steps will ensure the client’s needs are taken care of as he desires, the attorney potentially receives repeat business, and Agents are not running around during what is already a state of heightened pressure looking for documents that may not be easy to find.
Q FOR U: Where are your legal documents held? Who knows their location?