Client Policies increase our Clients’ knowledge and understanding to optimize interactions between Clients and the Firm
ACCESS TO ATTORNEYS
It is the policy of the Firm to provide the most efficient and highest level of service to our Clients. Communications are essential to foster this goal. Thus, the following procedures should be followed to better promote communications between the Client and the Firm.
We have found that Clients often prefer the ease and speed of email. Thus, we encourage Clients to contact us by email at [email protected]. Email to “team” will ensure that the Client’s communication is reviewed by the appropriate team member in a timely manner. Emails will be acknowledged upon receipt, with a substantive response provided within 24 hours if the email is received on a business day, or within 24 hours of the next business day if the communication is received over a weekend or holiday.
Telephone conferences with Attorneys must be scheduled in advance. To schedule a phone conference, please call 509.468.0551. We have found that team members oftentimes are able to answer Client’s questions without the necessity and expense of an Attorney telephone conference.
If the caller is facing an urgent situation, meaning a Client is facing imminent death in the family, our staff will gather information from the caller and convey it to the appropriate team member for a return call to the Client or the Client’s representative as soon as possible.
DEFINITION OF EMERGENCY
It is the policy of the Firm for staff to triage calls and emails to determine if the Client is experiencing an “emergency” or “urgent” situation.
An “emergency” involves an immediate threat to health or safety. Should the Client believe that they are facing an emergency, the Client should call “911.” We are not able to assist the Client with an emergency situation.
An “urgent” situation would involve the Client’s immediate need for legal counsel. For example, if the Client’s estate plan contemplates transfer of assets to the spouse, and the Client or family member is facing imminent death, this is an urgent matter.
CLIENT AND LAW FIRM INTERACTIONS
It is the policy of the Firm to provide Clients excellence in legal advice and services, to work cooperatively with our Clients, and to keep our Clients informed by providing all material information about the Client’s matter in a timely manner.
Client Must Provide Accurate Information: Similarly, we require Clients provide the Firm truthful and accurate information so that we may better serve you in providing legal advice and services.
Complete disclosure about your financial and family situation is essential. Our meetings with you and questionnaires for you to complete seek to elicit material information, but this might not capture everything relevant to a Client’s situation, and sometimes a Client may overlook or simply forget to include important information. If at any time the Client recalls important information, or wonders if the information should be reported to us, let us know. More disclosure is better than less! All information you provide is strictly confidential.
Client Must Follow Instructions: You have retained our legal services to assist you with an important personal legal matter. It is critical that you follow the instructions from Attorneys and staff and timely comply and provide any documentation or information requested.
Staff Does Not Provide Legal Advice: A non-lawyer cannot provide legal advice; only Attorneys can do so. However, staff members have direct access to Attorneys and can convey to the Client direction from the Attorney. If at any time you do not understand your situation or wish to confirm advice received, please schedule an appointment with the Attorney.
Honesty and Respect: Importantly, all persons with whom the Firm has contact shall be treated with honesty and respect. In like manner, the Firm expects that its Attorneys and staff shall also be treated courteously and with respect.
Matter Development: It is important that the Firm be kept informed of any new information relating to our representation of you. Please be sure to contact our office and relay any new information related to your matter.
As new developments arise in your legal matter, periodic meetings with a member of the legal team may be necessary. If you do not know whether you should contact us to provide information, simply send us an email at [email protected], and we will determine if an in-person meeting is appropriate.
If we are assisting you with a Medicaid matter, all communication with the State Department of Social and Health Services, and Home and Community Services must be through our office. You should not provide any information or documentation directly to the State agencies as by doing so you compromise the effectiveness of your legal services and jeopardize the outcome of your matter. Please forward any requests from State agencies on your matter to our office for handling.
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
It is the policy of the Firm to protect the privacy of our Clients, and maintain all information as confidential.
Everything in our relationship is confidential. The ethical requirements of Attorneys apply to all employees of the Firm. We treat all Client communications, whether oral, written or otherwise, as highly confidential information that may not be repeated or communicated to any other person without the express consent of the Client.
Please be aware, however, that confidentiality can be lost if you discuss your matter or disclose any confidential information with a non-lawyer outside of our Firm. Please be cautious with all paperwork you receive from our office and all conversations you have regarding the matters for which we are assisting you.
With respect to the form of our communications with you, unless you advise otherwise, you agree that we may contact you via telephone, cellular phone, facsimile, email, or any other form of communication you deem proper. You acknowledge that these other methods of communication may not be as secure, private or Attorney-Client privileged as a face-to-face meeting. Particularly if you provide an employer-provided email, the communication will not be secure.
The Attorney-Client privilege continues to exist, even after the conclusion of legal services. In fact, the Attorney-Client privilege continues after death, unless a court orders disclosure of information.
If we are representing you in any matter which would require that we consult with your insurance agent, financial advisor, Certified Public Accountant, or other professional, we will do so only with your authorization. However, such communications necessarily will reveal to the particular advisor our representation of you, and the information discussed with them will no longer be confidential.
PAYMENT OF LEGAL FEES AND COSTS
It is the policy of the Firm to provide Clients cost-effective legal services, billing each matter appropriately.
Legal services may be billed either on a Flat Fee or hourly fee basis. The Fee Agreement provided indicates which billing method applies to your matter. The following provides further information regarding billing and your legal obligation to pay fees and costs.
Flat Fee Services: Per the Rules of Professional Conduct, we must advise you that upon receipt of all or any portion of a Flat Fee the funds are considered the property of Elder Law Group PLLC. The funds will not be placed in a trust account. The fact that you have paid all or a portion of your fee in advance does not diminish your right to terminate the Attorney-Client relationship. In the event our relationship is terminated before the agreed-upon legal services have been completed, you may or may not have a right to a refund of a portion of the fee.
The Flat Fee includes all necessary and appropriate services with regard to your Estate Plan. Our services include consultations in person, by phone and via email for the preparation of your Estate Planning documents.
The Flat Fee does NOT include costs and expenses, such as third-party disbursements. Client will be invoiced for payment of costs and expenses.
Hourly Services: Legal services provided on an hourly fee basis require a deposit of funds placed into our trust account to cover both fees and costs incurred.
Hourly rates will be charged for time expended for conferences, legal research which is specific to the matter, preparation of documents, review of Client materials, team meetings concerning the case, correspondence, memoranda, any required travel, and any other activities that may be necessary. Time charges specifically include all telephone calls, including calls to and from you. There is a minimum time charge of 1/10th of an hour for a team member’s time for any item billed.
Our statements generally will be prepared and mailed either during the month services are rendered and disbursements are made or at the first of the month immediately thereafter. Payment is due upon receipt of the invoice, and typically will be made from the funds deposited in our trust account. The Client is required to replenish the trust balance so that funds remain in the trust account until the conclusion of services.
When you receive an invoice, please read it over carefully and call our office if you have any questions or believe there may be an error. We do not charge Clients for time discussing bills or payment arrangements. Be assured that we will happily and swiftly correct any errors in billing.
A late payment charge is assessed on the last day of each month against all fees and costs which were billed before the beginning of the month and remain unpaid at the end of the month. The monthly late payment charge is the greater of $1.00 or 1.0% of the unpaid balance (12% per annum).
Costs and Disbursements: Often it is necessary for the Firm to incur expenses for items such as recording fees, photocopying (at 20¢ a page), postage and the like. Our firm usually advances payment for these expenses. These items are separately itemized on invoice statements as costs advanced and are the responsibility of the client.
It is the policy of the Firm to provide the legal services agreed upon under the terms of the Fee Agreement.
If the Client fails to abide by the terms of the Fee Agreement, and no other arrangement for payment has been agreed upon by the Firm, all non-essential work on the Client’s matter will be suspended. In the event that the Client’s bill is not brought current, the Firm may terminate services and refer the matter to a collection agency.
An Attorney-in-Fact acting on behalf of a Principal agrees to have individual responsibility and liability for and pay any legal fees owed to the Firm, even those fees which are not paid by the Principal or from the Principal’s funds.
It is the policy of the Firm to provide Clients competent legal advice; guarantees are not made.
Nothing in the Firm’s statements to the Client should be construed as a promise or guarantee about the outcome of a matter. The Firm makes no such promises or guarantees. Any comments about the outcome of a matter are expressions of opinion only.
It is the policy of the Firm to avoid representation of Clients should there be an actual conflict of interest and to advise Clients of potential conflicts of interest.
It is common for an Attorney to represent multiple persons as long as there is no conflict in the representation. Thus, an Attorney may represent both spouses in Elder Law and Estate Planning matters, or both the Principal and Attorney-in-Fact where the Attorney-in-Fact is acting on behalf of the Principal, including matters involving implementation of Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies™ to obtain government benefits for the Principal.
Nonetheless, due to ethical rules that limit the ability of an Attorney to represent “multiple clients,” we do wish to point out that there is the possibility that a conflict might arise. For example, there could be a potential conflict of interest as to the ownership of assets, the disposition of respective estates, or other issues within the scope of our engagement.
In such joint representation each person is considered our Client. Therefore, matters discussed with or revealed to the Firm will not be protected from disclosure to the other Client. All information that we receive in the course of our representation will not be deemed confidential between the parties, regardless of whether we obtain such information in conversations with all parties together or in private conversations with only one person.
In a situation of differing opinions, we will discuss the pros and cons of such differing opinions and advise you as to the alternatives available. However, the ethical rules prohibit us from advocating the position of one Client over another. Therefore, it may be better for each person to have separate independent counsel so that each person will have their own advocate for their position.
If all parties would like the Firm to represent them, it is with full understanding of the right of each person to have independent counsel as well as the advantages of independent counsel.
If an actual conflict were to develop, ethical rules may require the Firm to terminate the Attorney-Client relationship as to all Clients involved.
It is the policy of the Firm to retain copies of the Client file for seven years in digital format.
If you would like additional copies of any documents, we have prepared for you, just let us know. After seven years, and pursuant to the Rules of Professional Conduct and applicable statutes, we have no obligation to retain your file, at which time it may be destroyed.
Except in limited circumstances*, original Client documents are not retained by our Firm. Once we have made copies of these documents, each is listed on a Receipt which the Client will sign to evidence return of their items. However, when old Estate Planning documents have been superseded and replaced by the new Estate Planning documents we have prepared for Clients, the old documents will not be returned to them, but will be destroyed to avoid confusion.
Clients must retrieve their new Estate Planning documents from our Firm. All other original documents also will be returned at the conclusion of current services. Our Firm has no responsibility for loss of any original documents should the Client fail to pick up their documents within a reasonable time after services have been concluded. Clients will also sign a Receipt when picking up their Estate Planning notebook.
*The Firm retains a duplicate original General Durable Power of Attorney if such document has been prepared by the Firm for the Client.