My recent announcement that I would be closing my law firm raised a lot of questions for people who hadn’t thought about what would happen if their lawyer died, retired or stop practicing law.
So, this week’s article clues you in on what you need to know.
In the typical scenario, if you’ve done estate planning with a lawyer and he or she dies, retires or goes out of business, it means you need to start your planning over with a new lawyer. What does that mean to you?
Generally, it means you will find a new lawyer and he or she will have to create a whole new plan for you.
This can mean incurring thousands of dollars in planning fees all over again!
Yes, that’s true. Almost no lawyers will take over the planning that has been completed by another lawyer and pick up where you left off with that lawyer.
Because it means your new lawyer would be taking the risk that your prior lawyer made mistakes that he or she didn’t catch. That’s too big of a liability risk for your new lawyer to take on.
So, that means you have to begin again.
Beginning again means a whole new planning session, a whole new set of documents and a whole new planning fee.
That can be ugly.
So, what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen?
If you haven’t begun your planning yet, you can ask your prospective lawyer the following questions:
1. What happens to my plan if you die, retire or go out of business?
2. Will I have to begin my planning again with a new lawyer from scratch?
3. You are creating a plan for me, but do you have your own succession plan in place?
Unfortunately, most lawyers do not have their own succession plans in place. You’ve heard about the cobblers kids having no shoes, right? Well, it’s the same with lawyers.
You wouldn’t believe how many lawyers don’t have their own estate plans!
While you’re asking questions, you should also ask your lawyer how he or she will make sure your planning is kept up to date throughout your lifetime.
Ask him or her whether you’ll have to pay hourly fees to make changes or ask quick questions.
And, ask whether he or she will proactively communicate with you on an ongoing basis or if it’s up to you to initiate all conversation about changes in your life, the law or your assets. If you’ve already begun working with a lawyer, call him or her up now and ask these questions. Look for a ready answer that includes a plan whereby you won’t have to begin your planning again from scratch, in which your plan is regularly reviewed and your lawyer has a membership program you can join so that you can make changes to your plan on an ongoing basis without paying hourly fees.
If you are working with a Personal Family Lawyer, you have the peace of mind of knowing that if anything happens to your lawyer (or if you move to another State), your planning will transition easily to any one of the other lawyers in the Personal Family Lawyer network without a need to pay new planning fees.
Plus, your Personal Family Lawyer has a membership program in place so your plan can be reviewed regularly, you can make ongoing changes without paying hourly fees and you can contact your own lawyer before making any sort of financial or legal decisions for your family.
The clients who had worked with me over the past five years of my law firm practice are able to now choose from one of ten Personal Family Lawyers in the Southern California area who are ready to step in and take over their planning. Anwalt