Many people find it helpful to take someone with them when they visit a solicitor, especially if it’s their first time doing so. Whether you’ve made an appointment to discuss a Will, a power of attorney, a probate situation or even a dispute, having a close friend or family member nearby can provide helpful moral support.
However, it’s important to understand that the solicitor may ask whoever is accompanying you to wait in the waiting room for a short period while they talk to you alone. If this happens, please be assured that it is standard practice and nothing to do with any suspicions the solicitor may have about your or your supporter. Solicitors have a wide range of legal obligations they have to fulfil as part of their role, and sometimes this means ensuring they have spoken to their client alone.
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What if this happens in a family group?
Family members often attend solicitor meetings together, whether that’s a married couple arranging to see a solicitor both at once or grown-up children accompanying elderly parents. In these cases, it isn’t always immediately clear who the primary client is, especially if the issue being discussed affects everyone present.
The solicitor will need to identify who they are primarily being asked to act on behalf of and make sure they are doing what is best for that individual, even if some of the other family members present have differing interests. In order to ensure they are following the wishes of their primary client and not anyone else in attendance, the solicitor may need to have a conversation one-on-one.
What if there is a question of mental capacity?
Whether or not an individual can be said to have mental capacity is a vitally important question when it comes to making legal documents such as wills or lasting powers of attorney. To do this, the individual needs to be fully capable of understanding and making decisions for themselves. If they are not capable of this, any legal documents they make will not be valid.
Part of a solicitor’s legal obligations involve ensuring that their clients have the necessary level of understanding for making important legal decisions. Generally speaking, a solicitor will usually want to speak to the client alone in order to carry out this assessment. This is because the early symptoms of conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes be masked by loved ones, often unknowingly.
Who’s interest is this in?
It can feel a bit awkward to have to ask someone to wait outside during a meeting, just as it can be uncomfortable to be the person who’s asked to leave. However, if this happens please be assured that it really is in everyone’s best interest.
This is because:
- It gives the solicitor the opportunity to do their due diligence and ensure they are definitely acting in the best interests of their client, that no one is having undue influence on them and that they have the mental capacity required to carry out the task.
- It offers the client the chance to ensure they have made their wishes on the matter clear without any question of a conflict of interests with other people present. It also allows the client to discuss any confidential matters privately.
- It ensures that the legal documents that are being made are being created upholding best possible legal practice, which vastly reduces the possibility of those documents being challenged in the future on the basis of mental capacity or undue influence. This is likely to be in the best interests of everyone involved.
What if you have concerns about this?
Every situation is different, and there might be a reason why you feel uncomfortable about the idea of meeting with a solicitor alone or allowing a family member to do so. This could be the case if you have a particularly vulnerable family member who needs to meet with a solicitor.
If this is a concern for you, you might find it reassuring to work with a solicitor who comes recommended by people you trust, or who has specific accreditation from an organisation such as Solicitors for the Elderly.
How Roche Legal can help
We are reassuring experts who can help you with a wide range of legal matters. Please get in touch if you need legal support with:
- Trusts and Estate Planning
- Probate and Estate Administration
- Contested Probate and Will Disputes
- Powers of Attorney
- Court of Protection matters
- Presumption of Death Applications
- Missing Persons Guardianship Applications
Need further help?
If you would like to discuss these issues further, please contact us.