What Do We Expect From Our Clients? – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning #159
Listen to What Do We Expect From Our Clients?
This week on Hull and Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss what we expect and what we can expect from clients. This topic was prompted by the recent changes by the Law Society to the bylaws in terms of what to ask clients. They discuss the changes and how they are important in the general practice and in specific practice.
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What Do We Expect From Our Clients? – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning #159
Posted on April 7, 2009 by Hull & Hull LLP
Welcome to Hull on Estates and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you’re listening to will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada. From the offices of Hull & Hull in Toronto, here are Ian and Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to episode 159 of our podcast on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009.
Hi there Ian.
Ian Hull: Hi Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: How are you today?
Ian Hull: Terrific, thank you.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s good.
Ian Hull: So today we thought we’d talk about and consider a bit of a pet peeve of ours and that is, what do we expect and what can we expect from clients. And we spend a lot of time on our podcasts and in our profession worrying about what clients can expect of us. But I thought today we’d twist it around a little bit. And the reason why, I mean, one of the things that triggered it is for those of you who have been following some changes in the Law Society, there are some recent changes to the Rules in terms of what we must now ask our clients. And I thought it was a good segway. The by-law was changed and we get into the details of that. Basically the Law Society has said, and it comes in large part from money-laundering concerns and things like that, but the Law Society has said lawyers need to do the following: they need to get identification from their client and they have to verify that that identification is valid. And what does that mean to an estate practice? Well what it means to an estate practice is it’s a good reminder of the necessity for full disclosure.
So we thought we’d spend a few minutes about the new Rules, just because I think they are interesting in the context of estates. And secondly, spend a few minutes about, you know, the importance of disclosure.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And really, Ian, as a result of a change to the by-law, it’s not really that much of a more onerous job for us as practitioners because we would always identify our clients. People would come in; we’d get the specifics in terms of their addresses, their locations, how we can nail them down in the future and get hold of them if we needed to. But we’re now taking it that one step further and actually verifying that with photo i.d. basically. I think that really is the only additional thing. And many people are probably doing that to begin with anyways. And when we talk about the different roles that our clients can have or what different capacities they can come to us as, when we’re dealing with a client who is a Power of Attorney for instance, then additional obligations will arise for us as practitioners in order to verify that these individuals are who they say they are. And I thought maybe we could flesh that out a little bit.
Ian Hull: For sure. I mean, I think what the Rule says is that we have to do this work, this identification and verification with due diligence. So I want to turn that back on the clients and say to our clients, and I’ll often do this, is say look, I need due diligence on your part. If you’re going to come and see us with your estate planning expectations, or your estate litigation concerns and expectations, we need you to talk about a topic that is not easy to talk about (a) that’s death; and (b) talk about specifics that (b) that’s personal. So death and personal information is always hard to pull out of a client. But I think these Rules help sort of highlight the importance of it in our general practice. But even let’s talk about how they are so important in our specific practice.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And the truth is, Ian, when we get people coming to us in these situations, they’re not at the easiest points in their life. And so to get information from them is difficult at the best of times, let alone under these circumstances. And having them bring all the requisite documentation with them, so that we’ve got the comfort of knowing we’ve got the full story, and that we’ve got the full, you know, the verification and identification stuff that is required of us so that’s in our file and we can use that in the future, if and when need be.
Ian Hull: Absolutely. So I look at it, and I say to our clients look, you now have to verify and identify. Or identify first and then verify. And identify is sitting down. If you’re going to, for example, want to get an estate plan organized, and you’re getting ready to go to the meeting and hopefully you’ve got maybe a checklist from your lawyer before you get there, or you arrive and you get a checklist and you go through it. Identify. Well, you know what, if you’ve got different assets, like RRSP designations to identify, or insurance designations to identify, that can have an integral part in the estate plan. And although our job is expected to pull that information out, you’re looking at time and expense and additional effort for work that you can do. And we call it homework.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Right.
Ian Hull: Do your homework before you come to us. So that’s one part of it. And the second part of it is, we just encourage our clients, and it’s certainly not necessarily on the non-contentious side, but on the contentious side, we encourage our clients not to hold back.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Yes.
Ian Hull: Sorry.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And that’s a really important thing because people are hesitant enough to talk to lawyers at the best of times. But when you’re in these circumstances where things that may not necessarily appear important to the clients, could be very important to us. And so to the extent that we can draw that out, that’s great from our perspective. But to the extent that that can come to us voluntarily as well can only help in these situations.
Ian Hull: Absolutely. And some of our clients want to second-guess us. And that’s fine at some level. I mean lots of clients are very, you know, astute and they know what they want and don’t want. But I remember a case not so long ago where we were going through this document. It started off to be a simple probate application. I asked for a copy of the Will and I was given a photocopy. And I said well, okay, I need the original. And my client said, okay, why do we need that? Not that she didn’t want to give it to me; just didn’t understand it. She said fine. And then sure enough, the original arrived. She worked downtown and dropped it off at my office and the original arrived and it had handwritten markings on it. So all of a sudden turning what was a very simple administration into what has now turned into a bit of a contentious and a bit of an awkward probate application. So don’t presume that that little note in the corner, you know, Go Jays Go, and that’s being said because we won at the home opener yesterday. There’s a lot more that can come from that. And really it just comes down to, I mean, this is common sense. But I was struck by the impact that the new Rules are having on lawyers. And struck by the fact that it reminds me of the importance of clients to give us that identification and verification information.
So today we just wanted to highlight that and for those of you who want to go to the new Rules, Rule 7.1 of the By-laws of the Law Society of Upper Canada, on their webpage it’s located. It identifies the Rules with some particularity. It gives examples of specific expectations that a lawyer is going to have to verify. And so, for example, if there’s corporate holdings or partnership holdings, there are new Rules for us. So when you get down and sit down with the lawyer and they start asking you questions that don’t make sense, remember that (a) it is actually because we’re being told we have to by our new Rules; but (b) some of that information can be truly important, can impact either an estate litigation matter, a non-contentious matter. So don’t hold back, in my view, and you’ll save a lot of time and money and effort.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And I think that brings us to the end of this podcast. Thank you very much, Ian.
Ian Hull: Thanks Suzana.
You have been listening to Hull on Estates and Succession Planning by Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast that you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always speak with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstance.
To listen to other Hull & Hull podcasts, or leave any questions or comments, please visit our website at hullestatemediation.com.