A defense attorney is hired by a rapist who confesses his crime to the JD under the seal of client attorney privilege. However, the man is not guilty until proven guilty in a court of law. The JD gets him off scott free. That is a model of client/advisor relationship that carries over to some degree to philanthropic consulting, if we follow the "Donor Intent is sacrosanct" line of thought. The donor may be a fool, cad, or bounder. He may be malicious in his intent. Our role is not to reform, or judge, but to serve. This model makes some ethical sense and is good business. We are loyal to those who pay us. We should not presume to put our judgment above that of a wealthy and powerful adult who can take his or her business elsewhere.
Another model: The client is named Lear. His intent is to divide his Kingdom in three parts. He asks his family and retainers what they think of that. Cordelia is appalled and say nothing, provoking her father's ire and banishment. Her cunning sisters tell their father what he wants to hear, conniving their Machiavellian friends and lovers to cause war and chaos. The loyal counselors go along with the King, "Yes, Sir." The fool chastises him constantly in song, pleas, and bitter wit. The King goes mad, stung by the consequences of his foolish donative intentions. Who served the King best?
I say we are all Fools in the game of wealth planning, and only a Fool or Knave would say we are not. Donor intentions are a byproduct of all the ills and strengths to which flesh is heir. We owe every client a Fool's chance to rethink and reform. That is good business? No, the Fool sleeps in the kennel with the dogs, or works out of a Dumpster. But it is good citizenship and an expression of deep loyalty to those we allegedly serve.
Every person I know and love, myself too, have at least three selves, or congeries. We are our daylight self who gets through life more or less and holds a position and makes daily decisions reasonably well. We are also a night self, a half formed, often inchoate system of dysfunctions, stereoptypies, bad habits, prejudices and ineradicable stupidities and cruelties. Therapists, 12 Step Programs, and priests (or judges and juries or madhouse attendants) may deal with the dark shadow self. But then each of us has a better self, a better angel of our nature, a spark of the divine, a sacred self always aspiring, even in the depths of sin or the deadness of daily life not only to redemption but to love and efficacy for others. I see my role, my privilege, as dealing with the daylight self, skirting the darkness, leaving that for others, while creating a tiny crack, a little moment of opportunity for the higher self to emerge and make its intentions known.
It happens, in certain interviews. That dormant self awakens. When it does you can feel something like the holy spirit, or call it what you will, abroad in the room. You are then as the enabler of that, doing work that has enormous reach and leverage. From one such moment an intention my crystallize and become effective that will touch so many lives. History or a tiny but important piece of it may turn on a jeweled pivot.
To say we serve the donor's intentions is true, but it is equally true that the intentions formed with a true fool for a teacher may be wiser than those formed with the courtier. Don't blame the donor if the donor is a jerk. Think if of it as your own shadow. Cast the shadow of your own best self and see if the client does not respond in kind. Some do, some don't. Not all seed falls on fertile ground. Some trees bear sour fruit and are slated for the bonfire, as our Master Trickster Jesus taught to the Pharisees of his own era. Then again, Christ ended up dead, pending the Resurrection.
Better probably, to let the client be damned and his posterity ruined, than risk a rich man's ire or our fee. Wager your fee for your better self and a better world, but do it you own risk. Your reward will be in heaven, as I sometimes say, tipping the bottle of Thunderbird out back of the Store of Convenience with The Happy Tutor in his Dumpster. Eying the half empty bottle, the Tutor says, "Heaven, Phil, would be another $2.50 for a second pint. Who do you know you wants a real over the knee spanking who might be good for that kind of money? Ordered liberty starts at the top. "