You are a responsible person. You go to the physician and dentist periodically. You stay active and watch what you eat. You went to an attorney and did an estate plan. Unfortunately, professionals, like the rest of us, have changes in their lives. Perhaps they moved. Perhaps they fell ill or became disabled. Perhaps they died. So, what do you do when a professional is no longer available to assist you?
First, find out what has become of your records at your attorney’s office. Second, if you left original documents with the attorney, be sure to retrieve those documents from the attorney’s office as soon as possible. You would not want such records lost in a transition.
Next, select a replacement attorney. If your attorney was in solo practice, the state may take your file and assign it to a new attorney, who may not have the same level of estate planning expertise as your old attorney. Remember, this is your decision. Choose an attorney who is well qualified and with whom you are comfortable. Does the attorney focus their practice on estate planning? How much continuing education does the attorney take each year in estate planning and related fields? The more continuing education they attend annually, the better. State bar associations typically only require around 12 hours per year and not in a particular discipline. Some membership organizations, such as the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, require their members to have at least 36 hours per year in estate planning and related areas. This is a good goal.
After you’ve chosen the attorney, sit down and review your circumstances and goals with the new attorney. Let the new attorney get to know you and your family. This will make it easier when difficult times occur in your life. It’s likely it has been a while since you did your estate plan. Your circumstances and goals may have changed in the interim. Even if you did your estate plan recently, the new attorney should review your plan with you. The new attorney may think of new ways to achieve your goals. Earlier, perhaps you did only some basic planning with your old attorney. It may now be time to consider taking the next step.
Part of being responsible is surrounding yourself with caring friends and professionals to whom you can turn when adversity strikes. So, when your estate planning attorney or other professional is no longer available, act quickly to choose someone as his or her replacement. You can rest easier knowing you will be in good hands when problems occur.
Compliments of the McGee Law Firm, Attorney Brandon McGee
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys