You Mean I Can’t Bribe the Coach? Modern Ethics Issues You Didn’t See Coming

January 16, 2020

By James Jacaruso

Presented by Lauren J. Wolven, Levenfeld Pearlstein, PC 

This presentation discussed how attorneys and other service providers must anticipate potential issues in today’s changing world. The focus of Ms. Wolven’s presentation centered on societal changes and how to address such issues in wills, trusts and client information gathering.

Ms. Wolven discussed how the college tuition scandal is representative of the many things we may have “known” to be constant and steady, but actually may not possess either of those characteristics. Thus, attorneys must be prepared and thoughtful about these shifting sands.  Ms. Wolven cautioned attorneys to exercise “cultural awareness;” the ever-changing landscape of today’s society due to advances in medical technology and the law, particularly issues related to gender, once considered fixed, but now fluid.

Ms. Wolven opined that we are in a period of evolution of the definition of “family.” Many individuals have experienced negative reactions, harmful to familial relationships, because of nontraditional lifestyle choices.  Attorneys must now consider the psychological impact of what clients experience in the world and develop a skill set that can elicit this information and encourage open communication which is needed in order to provide comprehensive planning.

Attorneys must possess “cultural competence” which would allow them to look beyond traditional societal relationships, including their own culture, to draft documents that will consider current behavior, moral and religious beliefs and anticipate future societal changes. Attorneys should be aware of cultural shifts in society that may be outside the scope of their own culture.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the polyamorous and LBGTQ communities.  Relationships that were hidden in the past are now more out in the open, and no longer shunned. Being aware of these cultures, how they define their relationships and the family legacy they want to create can make the planning process more efficient and help the clients achieve their estate planning goals.

This is just a brief outline of Ms. Wolven’s presentation, but the resounding theme is for us all to be more accepting of nontraditional cultures; to learn about them, respect them and anticipate future societal changes. Anticipation can be a great skill set, which is conducive to being a more competent advisor.



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About James A. Jacaruso Jr.

James A. Jacaruso Jr. is a Personal Wealth Advisors Group Director with more than 25 years of tax compliance and planning experience focusing on personal and fiduciary income taxation, gift taxation and wealth transfer planning.