About Our Policies & Charges For Trust Copies:
Please understand that it is no trivial matter for us to reproduce a trust as it takes a significant amount of time to access and open file, reproduce, collate and send the documents. For these reasons we impose a minimum $100 charge for this. In truth however we would prefer that you locate the copy and original that left our office when the trust or other documents were signed and forestall any need to pay any charges. (We Never Retain Any Client Trust Originals.) Also, due to the laws requiring attorney confidentiality, we will not mail or supply copies to anyone other than client or the named successor trustee of a deceased client. Anyone else who wants a copy of trust documents must obtain them directly from the client or successor trustee of a deceased client. (You can read more about this below under “Confidentiality”.)
Locating Trust Documents
Remember, Clients Possess All Signed Originals and a Complete Copy: To forestall any potential need for our office to furnish copies to anyone please be aware that all clients leave our office in possession of both (1) All signed originals and (2) A complete copy of all signed originals. This applies to all documents including any trusts, other related documents and/or any amendments. (Our office never keeps originals!)
To reiterate, when any client completes a trust in our office they leave with a clear plastic envelope. This clear envelope contains all signed trust originals and the other related signed original documents. The client also leaves with a 3 ring binder, which among other items contains a page for page copy of the contents of the plastic envelope. This has been a routine practice that we have followed with every client, without exception. We are also quite specific to instruct clients to separate the originals (plastic envelope contents) from copies (white binder contents) and to store these in two different places for safekeeping.
Rather than have to charge a client or successor trustee for this, we strongly encourage you to look for the original and/or copies, which left our office in the client’s possession. We have found that upon thorough search, most are usually able to locate these documents.
Charges and Procedures For Obtaining Trust Copies
For copies to be generated the following procedures must be strictly adhered to:
Our office must first receive a request, in writing, signed by our client and accompanied by a check payable to Landis Mahaffey in the amount of $100.00, for a five business day turnaround (although we often complete the request faster.) If a shorter time line is demanded, then please include check in the amount of $300.00. Address correspondence to:
Affordable Living Trusts
15567 Big Basin Way; Suite A1
Saratoga, CA 95070
Please make checks payable to Landis Mahaffey.
Please be aware that we will not mail the copy or supply the copy to anyone other than the client who can then forward a copy to the interested party. If a client is deceased, and we have agreed to furnish a copy to the successor trustee likewise we will only supply the copy to the successor trustee and it is then the successor trustee’s responsibility to forward such needed documentation to the institution or interested party.
We Are Strictly Bound by the Law and Rules of Confidentiality.
Setting the scene for this discussion on confidentiality is the fact that we often receive calls from children, neighbors, financial planners, mortgage brokers, and other associates of our clients inquiring about a client’s trust or other matters related to the trust.
These inquiries range from requesting information about the trust file, provisions of the trust, and obtaining a full copy of the trust. Sometimes these requests are made for quick answers or expediency. Other times it is children who are trying to help their elderly, failing or incapacitated parents. It can also be other associates trying to assist in matters or obtain needed information on the client’s behalf.
As is often the case , these requests are made under very, very difficult, trying, or even emergency circumstances wherein close family members are searching for what they perceive as needed paperwork or documents they can’t easily locate (Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives, Trusts, Amendments, Asset Information, etc.).
We do understand that in the majority of cases these requests are made with only the best of intentions. Typically, helpful family members are simply trying to come up to speed on someone’s affairs with little or no information. In striving for a solution or answer under stressful circumstances we realize it’s easy to forget the rules of confidentiality we must follow as a law office.
Yet regardless of the intentions, situation, or circumstances, as a law office we are still strictly bound by these rules of confidentiality.
While there are those who immediately grasp that we must strictly adhere to these rules there are yet others who often remain persistent. Though we have the greatest of sympathy for those who are caught in these difficult situations please let it sink in that confidentiality is not an option that we can waive at our discretion – period.
So for those who think we can bend this rule we must reiterate that we are strictly prohibited from discussing any matters, proceedings, documentation or revealing any information regarding a client’s meeting or trust documentation no matter who you are or what your relationship is with the client. Even if the trust documents have been stolen or hidden by another family member, beneficiary, or some other person we cannot break confidentiality. (We will not involve ourselves in a dispute among family members.) We therefore respectfully ask that no one persist in asking us to break a rule that we can’t and won’t.
To add to your understanding some short passages out of the rules of professional conduct regarding this include:
….it is a duty of a member: “To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.” A member’s duty to preserve the confidentiality of client information involves public policies of paramount importance….
The principle of client-lawyer confidentiality applies to information relating to the representation, whatever its source, and encompasses matters communicated… by the client, and therefore protected by the attorney-client privilege, matters protected by the work product doctrine, and matters protected under ethical standards of confidentiality, all as established in law, rule and policy.
Again, while you may have our sympathy, confidentiality is not an option that we can waive at our discretion no matter what the circumstance.
So please, do not ask us to reveal any information or supply you with copies of the trust or any other documentation or information unless you are the actual client who completed and signed the trust.