NUMBER 190 1921

Question. Can a lawyer, who has been counsel for both husband and wife, with professional propriety warn the husband that the wife has requested him to draw her will so as to dispose of property in her name, but consisting of the fruits of the joint labors of husband and wife, in such manner that the husband shall have only a life estate after her death, with remainder to her descendants by a former marriage, with the deliberate design to prevent any part of it from inuring after his death to the benefit of the husband’s relatives?

Or, can the lawyer, with knowledge so obtained of the wife’s purpose, with professional propriety make a suggestion to the husband of the possibility of such a course, though not disclosing the fact that he has been consulted by the wife to that end?

The lawyer with knowledge of the circumstances having remonstrated with the wife is unable to dissuade her from her purpose.


Answer. There are few exceptions to the rule that a lawyer must keep secret confidential communications from a client. In the opinion of the Committee, the facts set forth in the question do not come within any of the recognized exceptions, and, therefore, the lawyer cannot properly inform the husband of the fact; nor should he voluntarily make a suggestion to the husband of a possibility based upon his knowledge of a fact so obtained, but the lawyer, with respect to the husband’s future conduct, is not precluded, if consulted by the husband, from advising him of the legal incidents of the transfer to his wife of the fruits of his labor.