Thursday, March 1, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
Can a will be kept fresh with just a burp and a seal? Paul Caron at TaxProf posts Tupperware Tax Practice, on a will-signing party that a Massachusetts solo practitioner has instituted to service five or so couples, in-home, at a time. (Paul links this National Law Journal story.) The Tupperware-like idea does offer convenience for clients and marketing advantages for estate planners. But the lawyer will have to be very careful to avoid issues of solicitation, confidentiality, and even conflicts by such group invitations and meetings.
At first blush, I don't think those issues are insurmountable; after all, where there's a will, there's a way. And I noted that the lawyer here requires much client homework before the home meeting. But the eventual success of this marketing format -- I absolutely predict huge success and mimicry -- will likely spark bar scrutiny, so the salespeople/lawyers need to be thorough in covering their ethical bases. They should keep detailed contemporaneous records for when the bar comes calling (e.g., to show that only advertising is used, that no third-party referrals were solicited at the meetings, and that appropriate confidentiality protections and waivers were in place). No "tell your friends!" is either advisable or really necessary to articulate.
Plus sub-marketing the idea via pyramiding [ironic, since pyramids were the original ultimate in estate planning] would raise lawyer-referral and fee-splitting issues that the bar particularly scrutinizes when done on a routine basis. (But there's no indication that this lawyer is trying to Mary Kay this idea or even drives a pink Cadillac. I'm just saying.)
One can only hope that no client gets confused and shows up at the estate planning meeting with her beloved's head in Tupperware.