We're interviewing potential elder law attorneys to help us with legal & financial steps in qualifying parents for assistance with care. It took us back a little when one attorney sent us an estate planning checklist that included information such as SSN, DOB of parents & all children (biological, adopted, deceased), a detailed financial inventory of all assets with supporting data for each, safety deposit box & location, etc. Is this standard? Is it a good thing indicating that a lot of information will be reviewed & discussed at no charge? I do understand that help from an elder law attorney is vital & will come at a cost, hopefully reasonable. It's hard to discern whether this practice is designed to simply be helpful & establish a connection, or if it is not typical. We are pretty inexperienced & just need some reassurance on things that fall under typical expectations vs. those that should cause red flags.

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It is not necessary to disclose your identifying numbers, such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers, to an elder law attorney who is explaining the regulations and your best options for planning. Generic descriptions of just the asset values (bank balances, stock values, etc) are sufficient to prepare an Inventory that you and the attorney can use for planning.

If you do decide to hire the elder law attorney to prepare a Medicaid application, or assist you with estate planning that involves retitling assets, only then you would share an applicant's social security number, or an applicant's account numbers. The attorney would need those numbers to complete the Medicaid application, or work with customer service.

But the attorney wouldn't need identifying numbers for other family members, unless the attorney was assisting the client with beneficiary designations on the client's accounts. Even then, sharing of information about beneficiaries can be limited to the forms filled out and submitted to the financial institutions, or by way of a three way phone call with the customer service department of the financial institution and the client, who keeps the information.

Perhaps the estate planning checklists you were given are obsolete forms from years past, before we became sensitive and aware of the need to protect privacy and avoid collecting data on people.

While dates of birth for the client and their family members may be helpful to understand a client's current and future circumstances, I do not collect the other information you mentioned until there is a specific reason, such as filing a Medicaid application.
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Lynda, I don't specifically recall whether SS No. was asked for but I have to review some trust documents this week so I'll check and see if our firm did. I would think the DOB of children is so that their ages can be addressed in will or trust documents, such as whether they're of age or provisions would need to be added for someone to manage their inheritance until they are of age. This would just be thorough assessment on the part of the attorney.

The detailed financial information could either be for handling any funding if you create a trust (i.e., transfer ownership from individuals to the trust), and/or to manage the funding itself. If you are considering a trust, you can fund it yourself.

Was any information asked on title of any real estate assets? It should be.

I don't recall being asked about a safety box. I suspect this would be in anticipation of handling the estate, or a trust. I think this firm would probably pitch for the right to do that.

One of the questions I'd ask is what level of detail they provide so that you can fund a trust, or manage the estate yourself, unless you want a firm to handle these aspects.

As to "good things", I think it's generally good that the firm wants information, but only up to a point. If it asks for specific account information, such as numbers, titling, information on investments (i.e., account numbers, etc.), I'd ask them to clarify the use for this detailed information.

I would also ask how they store this information, and specifically, whether they input it into your client files and where that information is stored. If it's the so-called "cloud" storage, I'd think twice about that, as law firms (unless they're the major ones, the big firms with hundreds of attorneys) generally don't have that level of security.

I'd also ask what are their security measures to guard against data breeches.
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I think many law offices that offer "free" initial consults are sending you paperwork about what will need to be gathered IF you use their services so that there is not a delay in explaining what you have to bring to lawyer offices to get things started. Imagine paying billable hours to sit in an office and be told you have to gather that info AFTER the clock starts. FIL's lawyer told him that she gave the docs as a standard "you will need to have these to proceed" and didn't collect them from someone UNLESS they became a client. And, yes, if you are a client they will collect the documentation needed for will preparation, life insurance review, etc. The new Texas standard will includes language that includes the final 4 digits of social security number to "help reduce fraud" given the frequency of names and massive elder fraud. Information is power and punishment.
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In the current privacy issues climate, I understand your concerns. Did the other la firm do this? So like it’s stabdard for MN elder law furms?

If not, then my suggestion is to call this firm and say that you are looking at several NAELA / CELA law firms and want you are actually wanting is an initial meeting to see if their approach and your parents / dpoa personality’s mesh. If they won’t listen to this request, personally I’d 86 them from my list and move onto another firm. If it happened to me well they’ve gotten me peevish and it’s not even the first date.....
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I see no reason for SSN. I would give no bank account numbers but would give them assets amounts. I would say there was a bank box and if no assets in it like bonds, stocks or jewelry, they don't need to know. If you hire them then you can ask why they need the info.
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