Who would have thought that “Dear Abby” could teach us something about practicing trusts and estates law in Florida? Read the following exchange (also available here) and ask yourself three questions:

[1] Assuming the estate planning attorney described below only represented the husband, did the attorney violate his confidentiality obligations under Florida Ethics Rule 4-1.6? Answer: Yes.

[2] Under Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 95-4, could the estate planning attorney represent both husband and wife in the scenario described below? Answer: No.

[3] Is this type of behavior great advertising for Florida’s homestead protection laws and spousal elective share rights? Answer: Yes!!!

DEAR ABBY: My husband, “Girard,” and I have been married two years. We both have children from previous marriages. Girard always told me I would have a home if I outlived him, even though his children will eventually inherit the property.

One day I asked Girard if it was in the will, and he said no, but that he and his children “had discussed it.” When I asked him to put it on paper, he agreed. His attorney drafted a document for him to sign. After it had laid around the house for more than a week, Girard told me he had lost it. I reminded him to get another copy, sign and return it. After two more weeks passed with no signed document, Girard told me his attorney was “busy” and “would get to it when he could.”

I decided to call the attorney myself. Well, you guessed it. I was told the papers had been executed. When I confronted Girard he admitted he had lied and promised to have the will done over. When I looked at the document he had signed, I saw that Girard was giving me 90 days to get out of the house after his death.

I was upset, so he tore up the document. Am I being unreasonable? I am 76, and he is 84. — DOESN’T WANT TO BE HOMELESS IN BATON ROUGE

DEAR DOESN’T: It’s not unreasonable to want a roof over your head should your husband predecease you. Thank heavens you found out now what was planned for you, rather than being hit with it while you were helpless and grieving. Now that you know how your husband thinks, consult an attorney of your own and find out exactly what your rights are as a wife in the state of Louisiana. The law can vary from state to state, and it is extremely important that you know what you are entitled to.

Source: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof. Blog