State Supreme Court Explores Will-Drafting “Exception” to the Attorney-Client Privilege

August 17, 2005

Courts universally acknowledge that the attorney-client privilege extends beyond a client’s death. However, many states recognize a limited “exception,” which allows a testator’s lawyer to reveal otherwise privileged communications in a fight between beneficiaries taking under the will – apparently believing that the decedent would want the lawyer to help resolve any ambiguities in the will.

The Connecticut Supreme Court held that this “exception” did not apply when the privileged communications do not result in an executed will. Gould, Larson, Bennet, Wells & McDonnell, P.C. v. Panico, 869 A.2d 653, 654 (Conn. 2005). The court explained that the decedent would not have favored disclosure of communications about a document that was never publicized by being filed in probate court, and might not have reflected the decedent’s wishes.

Courts continue to analyze many nuances of the attorney-client privilege.