The New Year Has Begun

The beginning of a new year is an opportune time to focus on family. A comprehensive estate plan can act as a roadmap, shielding your loved ones from uncertainties and providing peace of mind for both you and your family.

Protecting Relationships

Unmarried Partner

Today, it is common for adults to be in long-term committed relationships but be unmarried. If you have a life partner and are unmarried, it is imperative that you have an estate plan if you want your partner to receive your money or property at your death or if you want them to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you are alive but unable to make your own decisions. If you rely on your state’s laws, an unmarried partner will likely receive nothing at your death and will have no authority to make decisions on your behalf.


Under most states’ laws, if a person does not have an estate plan, a judge usually chooses the spouse to make decisions for them if they cannot or to wind up their affairs when they pass away. The spouse is also typically given a large part of the person’s money and property if they die without an estate plan. However, a proactive and documented estate plan can help alleviate complications and misunderstandings among other family members. This is especially important in a blended family, where, for example, you may want your surviving spouse and children from a different relationship to receive your money and property at your death or you want an adult child to make medical decisions for you instead of your spouse.

New Child or Grandchild

Welcoming a new family member is a joyous occasion, but it also comes with added responsibilities. Providing for a child or grandchild at your death in an estate plan involves nominating a guardian for your minor child and creating the terms for the inheritance you would like your child or grandchild to receive. By creating or revising your estate plan after the birth of a child or grandchild, you can help ensure the wellbeing and financial security and support the future aspirations of your young family members.


In-law relations such as a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or parent-in-law may not typically be included in an estate plan, but you may want to leave an in-law relation something upon your passing. Alternatively, you may want your in-law to receive another family member’s inheritance if they predecease you or pass away before they have received their entire inheritance. By default, most state laws will not provide for an in-law if you pass away without an estate plan, so if this is your desire, you need to proactively plan for it. You should also reevaluate what you leave newly married family members in your will or trust, focusing on protecting their inheritance from their new spouse in the event of a divorce.

Protecting Your Family During Your Job Changes


Life is dynamic and so are your financial circumstances. It is essential that you update accounts and beneficiary designations with each job change or significant change in income. Failing to do so may have unintended consequences on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, flexible spending and health savings accounts, and more. Talk to your human resources benefits advisor to take an inventory of investments tied to your former employer and any new employer. Even if you have been at the same company for years, you should periodically check your beneficiary designations to make sure everything is up-to-date.

Estate planning is not a one-and-done task. It should evolve with changing circumstances. Regular reviews ensure that your estate plan aligns with changes in your relationships, financial situation, and life events. An estate plan is made up of documents that require accurate information to protect and provide for those you hold dear.

In February, the month of love, take the time to create or revisit your estate plan. Through thoughtful planning, you can continue to express love and care for your family, even after you are gone. If you have any questions or would like to review your existing estate plan, give us a call.


Third-Party Waivers and Why We Sometimes Need Them


As your trusted estate planning attorney, if we do not have an immediate answer or solution for you, we can often get one by contacting another attorney or advisor who works in an area that falls outside of our expertise—a vetted professional that we have developed working relationships with or perhaps your trusted advisor who can be brought in to enhance the services provided to you.


When this happens, we must adhere to specific ethical guidelines, including those outlined in the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Code of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6,[1] regarding client confidentiality and obtaining informed consent before disclosing information related to your planning. According to ABA Model Code Rule 1.6, “[a] lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent.”[2]

Attorney-Client Privilege

You are surely familiar with attorney-client privilege—confidential communications between you and your attorney stay between you and your attorney. This is one of the oldest legal privileges, with boundaries respected by the courts. However, there are times when attorney-client privilege is waived, such as when information is shared outside of the attorney-client relationship.


Lawyers often include other individuals as part of their “team,” specifically to provide the best and most comprehensive representation to their client. For example, lawyers may often seek out a trusted accountant, tax advisor, financial planner, or insurance agent to help translate complex financial information, tax strategies, or policy information for advanced estate planning. However, when these individuals are brought in, we want to make sure that you are informed and protected.

The Third-Party Waiver Form

In situations where nonclients, including your family members and advisors, are integral to the estate planning process, we may ask you to sign a third-party waiver form. This form serves a dual purpose:

  1. It allows us to share confidential information that is otherwise protected by the attorney-client privilege with relevant third parties to complete the estate planning process.
  2. It allows third parties to be present during our estate planning meetings where sensitive details are discussed.


The third-party waiver is not only an ethical requirement but it also serves as a practical tool for permitting effective communication and collaboration among various experts. This can help to cultivate a comprehensive and transparent approach to estate planning. By seeking informed consent through the third-party waiver, we adhere to legal and ethical standards that prioritize your best interests.

Knowing What to Expect from Your Estate Planning Attorney

If you are ready to start the estate planning process and have other trusted advisors you feel would help the process, you can expect to sign a third-party waiver form. Your privacy is of the utmost importance.


If you want to include family members or friends in your estate planning meetings, you will need to sign a waiver permitting us to share your private planning information with them as well. In some instances, we have found it helpful to include family members in a meeting once the estate plan is complete, especially if those individuals have been given a role as an executor, trustee, or agent under a financial or medical power of attorney. We will explain what their roles involve and your intentions for them in decision-making processes. We can be there to provide them with advice and support and navigate tough conversations if needed.


We are your attorneys, and it is our responsibility to represent you and your interests. In some areas of the law, this may mean excluding people; however, in estate planning, it may be to your benefit to include outside professionals, family members, or loved ones. Regardless of the situation, we are here for you to ensure that you have an estate plan that is comprehensive and carries out your wishes.

[1] A state may have its own specific rule.

[1] Model Code of Pro. Resp. R. 1.6(a) (Am. Bar Ass’n 1980),