Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
Topic Author
tealeaves
Posts: 27
Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:21 pm

Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by tealeaves » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:37 am

We had a revocable trust made up years ago by an estate planning attorney. We'd like to make several updates to the document (trustees, etc.) and prefer to change lawyers (not sure to whom yet). Right now we have everything in a large binder and assume the attorney has all of our documents (trust, pour over will, health care directive, POA, etc.) in electronic form (don't know if they use Word documents or some specialized legal software).

Questions:

1. I've changed health care professionals numerous times before but never lawyers. When it comes to the medical arena the records/xray transfers have normally been doctor to doctor. Is there an accepted protocol for requesting legal documents vial email or other method of file transfer to us? I would think that we "own" those and it should be no problem, but wanted to get your opinion. In any case we would have a licensed attorney make any actual updates, so if it's preferable to make the transfer "lawyer to lawyer" I don't have a huge issue with that.

2. All of our legal documents of course have been signed in the presence of witnesses. Does each document that is changed then need to be reprinted and go through the process whereby they are signed and witnessed, or does this apply only to certain types of material changes?

JoinToday
Posts: 801
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2007 9:59 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by JoinToday » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:55 am

My experience: When I got a new lawyer for our trust update, the new lawyer basically pushed the master reset, and started over.

I suspect they have boilerplate software that they use to generate the trust document. You can bet for a few $K, the lawyers are not writing it from scratch. I doubt if my new lawyer even looked at the old document. (which was ok with me, we had a bunch of changes)

The old trust document is in my folder with the new trust document. New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated.

All new documents needed signatures & notary, just like the old trust document, but I don't recall needing a witness for the update.
I wish I had learned about index funds 25 years ago

LFS1234
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:13 am

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by LFS1234 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:54 am

Similar experience here. A completely new will was drafted, and the existing living trust was "restated and amended" using its original name, thereby avoiding the necessity of re-titling financial accounts and other living trust assets.

It is much easier and more efficient for the new attorneys to use and if necessary modify boilerplate with which they are intimately familiar, than to painstakingly parse word-by-word through someone else's possibly defective or obsolete documents at a cost of hundreds of dollars per hour.

We had a signing at the attorney's office where all new documents were appropriately signed, notarized and/or witnessed as necessary.

fru-gal
Posts: 200
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:48 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by fru-gal » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:25 pm

JoinToday wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:55 am
The old trust document is in my folder with the new trust document. New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated.
I was told to shred the old documents to avoid any confusion.

Murgatroyd
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:23 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by Murgatroyd » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:44 pm

Take your paper copies to kinkos and have them scanned for 20 bucks.

Next time ask the new lawyer to e-mail you scanned copies after signing.

User avatar
Duckie
Posts: 6413
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:55 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by Duckie » Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:03 pm

JoinToday wrote:New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated.
How did you manage that? My trust has a date. It's currently: "The Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008". When the date was changed the account titles needed to change (which was a PITA).

DIFAR31
Posts: 294
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:51 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by DIFAR31 » Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:47 pm

Duckie wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:03 pm
JoinToday wrote:New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated.
How did you manage that? My trust has a date. It's currently: "The Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008". When the date was changed the account titles needed to change (which was a PITA).
If allowed by the language in the original trust, any changes can be incorporated in a new trust document titled something to the effect of "Restatement of the Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008."

JoinToday
Posts: 801
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2007 9:59 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by JoinToday » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:01 pm

DIFAR31 wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:47 pm
Duckie wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:03 pm
JoinToday wrote:New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated.
How did you manage that? My trust has a date. It's currently: "The Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008". When the date was changed the account titles needed to change (which was a PITA).
If allowed by the language in the original trust, any changes can be incorporated in a new trust document titled something to the effect of "Restatement of the Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008."
This ie exactly what my lawyer did. My lawyer said we could use either the original date for the titles on accounts, or the date of the new (updated) trust. So we didn't change the title on the old accounts, but used new trust date for new things.
fru-gal wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:25 pm
JoinToday wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:55 am
The old trust document is in my folder with the new trust document. New trust document superseded the old trust document, but we kept the same trust name, so account titling and real estate titling did not need to be updated. My old trust has "Superseded on 1-1-10" stamped on the title page and the signature page.
I was told to shred the old documents to avoid any confusion.
How does the bank know that the old trust doc is superseded? Does it say so in the new trust doc? Or maybe your lawyer completely started over, and you needed to change the title of the old accounts.

If your old accounts said "Fru-gal trust, dated 01/01/2000" and is the owner of some of your accounts, maybe the bank/Vanguard/Fidelity will be reluctant to hand over the trust assets to your heirs since the only trust document might be "Fru-gal trust, dated 05-01-2015". How does the bank know you don't have 2 separate trusts?
I wish I had learned about index funds 25 years ago

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 8065
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:11 pm

Electronic documents can contain a great deal of metadata. You never know what's lurking in a .docx file. I would expect a non-somnolent attorney to strongly resist handing over documents in electronic form.

NotWhoYouThink
Posts: 2309
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:25 pm

The new lawyer is never going to take the old document, assume everything is peachy keen with it, change a few words, update a couple of names, and call it a day. The new lawyer will want to make sure she knows every word in the document and why it was there and how it will be interpreted and implemented once the will is put to use.
The way to do that is either
- Spend a few dozen hours at $250-500 an hour pouring over every word and punctuation mark in the old will, or
- Entering your wishes and names of your heirs and executors in the software program her office has already thoroughly vetted.

Which do you think will be cheaper?

User avatar
Duckie
Posts: 6413
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:55 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by Duckie » Mon Mar 11, 2019 3:54 pm

DIFAR31 wrote:If allowed by the language in the original trust, any changes can be incorporated in a new trust document titled something to the effect of "Restatement of the Duckie Trust dated 2/16/2008."
Thank your for that information. Unfortunately, that language isn't in my original or updated trusts. Oh well.

Nearly A Moose
Posts: 940
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 5:28 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by Nearly A Moose » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:24 pm

A good lawyer - as in, a professional attorney who values client service - should send you an electronic copy of your file if you ask. I wouldn't be surprised if many state bars require that. Usually, the materials generated are viewed as the client's materials, or at least that's typically how we do (corporate law, rarely individuals).

I have no problem giving my clients editable documents. I also have a saved copy of the sent item, so if something strange happened and they tried to edit it and pass it off as my work, I'd have that to fall back on (and they would cease to be a client). Don't be surprised if the lawyer runs it through a metadata scrubber.

That said, it may be easiest to just scan the hard copies you have. I suspect, as others have said, that your old and new lawyers are working off templates (which is completely fine, no need to reinvent the wheel), and it's a lot easier for them to use their template, with which they're familiar and confident in, than to analyze someone else's and determine what's appropriate. You might be able to help yourself a little by using your existing documents to create a term sheet of sorts identifying what you incorporated into your current documents and what you're thinking of changing (and why).
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

bryanm
Posts: 130
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:48 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by bryanm » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:46 pm

Lawyer here. I treat my clients files as theirs. There isn't a standard transfer format like in medicine (I suspect because the rules for lawyers are somewhat less formalized than HIPAA). Simply ask your old lawyer for a copy of your files and s/he should provide them. Alternatively, once you select a new lawyer, inform your old lawyer that you've retained new counsel, and ask that they transfer the files to the new counsel. It's purely business (much like dropping an advisor).

While your new lawyer may create a document from scratch, it's always nice to have the full file. And originals are better than scans, since they're easier to search and edit.

Don't be surprised if you're file is small. Many firms have a policy of deleting unneeded documents (drafts, correspondence unlikely to be needed, etc) after a certain time period.

fru-gal
Posts: 200
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:48 pm

Re: Getting an electronic copy of my legal docs and switching attorneys

Post by fru-gal » Wed Mar 13, 2019 5:05 pm

JoinToday wrote:
Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:01 pm

How does the bank know that the old trust doc is superseded? Does it say so in the new trust doc? Or maybe your lawyer completely started over, and you needed to change the title of the old accounts.

If your old accounts said "Fru-gal trust, dated 01/01/2000" and is the owner of some of your accounts, maybe the bank/Vanguard/Fidelity will be reluctant to hand over the trust assets to your heirs since the only trust document might be "Fru-gal trust, dated 05-01-2015". How does the bank know you don't have 2 separate trusts?
Because I got my butt into the credit unions and changed the ownership of non-IRA accounts and IRA beneficiaries to the new trust name. Ditto with the brokerages and real estate.

Post Reply