Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills.
Post Reply
Topic Author
RetiredCSProf
Posts: 1237
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:59 pm

Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by RetiredCSProf »

In 2017, I had estate planning documents prepared by an attorney. After a recent health scare, I decided that I want to change the names authorized on my "Advanced Health Care Directive" and "Authorization for Release of Health Care Information." I had omitted my son on the authorizations (he was 20 years old at the time) and want to add his name now, while deleting a couple names.

I called the attorney's office and learned that he had retired last year. I can work with his former law partner, but I would be considered a new client and they would charge me for redoing all my estate planning documents (including will and trust) -- at $550 per hour.

Is there a less expensive way to update the names on these two medical documents?

How many people are typically authorized on these documents? Is three enough? I currently have five and would be adding a 6th name.

Edited to add: I found this form online for CA -- does it make sense to use this for the medical directive ?https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/P ... llable.pdf
Last edited by RetiredCSProf on Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
toddthebod
Posts: 5985
Joined: Wed May 18, 2022 12:42 pm

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by toddthebod »

You should not need an attorney for these documents unless they are custom. California, for example, defines the content of the form by law, and you can download it here: https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/P ... llable.pdf
You fill it out and have it notarized.
tibbitts
Posts: 23915
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 5:50 pm

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by tibbitts »

RetiredCSProf wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:16 pm In 2017, I had estate planning documents prepared by an attorney. After a recent health scare, I decided that I want to change the names authorized on my "Advanced Health Care Directive" and "Authorization for Release of Health Care Information." I had omitted my son on the authorizations (he was 20 years old at the time) and want to add his name now, while deleting a couple names.

I called the attorney's office and learned that he had retired last year. I can work with his former law partner, but I would be considered a new client and they would charge me for redoing all my estate planning documents (including will and trust) -- at $550 per hour.

Is there a less expensive way to update the names on these two medical documents?

How many people are typically authorized on these documents? Is three enough? I currently have five and would be adding a 6th name.

Edited to add: I found this form online for CA -- does it make sense to use this for the medical directive ?https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/P ... llable.pdf
I would just d-i-y those documents but I'm not an expert. But you should ask someone before adding them. I asked several people but nobody except one wanted to be on the documents, so I have only one person on mine.
bsteiner
Posts: 9290
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by bsteiner »

I would not take on a new client just for health care documents. There's some time and effort involved in taking on a new client, including the initial contact, doing a conflict check and setting up a new client in our accounting system and in our document system.

But you're not a new client. You're a client of the firm. It wouldn't cost very much to update a client's health care documents.

After 7 years, you might or might not want to update your Will (or, in your case, since you're in California, most likely your revocable trust). It would depend on whether there were any changes in your assets or your family situation, or any changes in the tax law, that would warrant updating your estate plan.

The billing rate you mentioned seems low for California.
User avatar
beyou
Posts: 7007
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 2:57 pm
Location: If you can make it there

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by beyou »

bsteiner wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:58 pm After 7 years, you might or might not want to update your Will (or, in your case, since you're in California, most likely your revocable trust). It would depend on whether there were any changes in your assets or your family situation, or any changes in the tax law, that would warrant updating your estate plan.

The billing rate you mentioned seems low for California.
We often hear that it’s just as expensive to review existing plans as it is to create new when engaging a new client from a different law firm.

That said, if someone has already re-titled most assets into a revocable trust, is it common to revise the rlt without having to re-title assets (when hiring a new attorney who wants to revise to their style, current law or current family situation) ?
User avatar
Lee_WSP
Posts: 10455
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:15 pm
Location: Arizona

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by Lee_WSP »

It shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half to prepare that document and talk with you about what you’d like. You’re an existing client, there’s no administrative work in creating your file.
toddthebod
Posts: 5985
Joined: Wed May 18, 2022 12:42 pm

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by toddthebod »

beyou wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 1:20 pm
bsteiner wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:58 pm After 7 years, you might or might not want to update your Will (or, in your case, since you're in California, most likely your revocable trust). It would depend on whether there were any changes in your assets or your family situation, or any changes in the tax law, that would warrant updating your estate plan.

The billing rate you mentioned seems low for California.
We often hear that it’s just as expensive to review existing plans as it is to create new when engaging a new client from a different law firm.

That said, if someone has already re-titled most assets into a revocable trust, is it common to revise the rlt without having to re-title assets (when hiring a new attorney who wants to revise to their style, current law or current family situation) ?
You can restate the trust. It keeps the name of the old trust but is otherwise for all intents and purposes a new trust. That allows you to have the new trust in place without retitling again.
afan
Posts: 8254
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:01 pm

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by afan »

Is there a reason to hire an attorney at all for these documents? The OP os not revising their estate plan. They are just changing the names on the health care forms. In my state, one can find those forms online.

Of course, if OP needs to review the estate plan, then they will need to meet with an attorney and go over their current situation and goals.

As for the "low" rate, could that be a discount for an existing client of the firm? Or could it reflect a small firm in a relatively low cost of living area in CA? What would be a screaming bargain for a senior partner at a Big Law firm in downtown LA might be quite reasonable for a lower cost lawyer in a smaller city.

Would the attorneys here suggest that it is time for an estate planning check up anyway after 7 years?
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama
User avatar
Lee_WSP
Posts: 10455
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:15 pm
Location: Arizona

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by Lee_WSP »

afan wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 2:25 pm Is there a reason to hire an attorney at all for these documents? The OP os not revising their estate plan. They are just changing the names on the health care forms. In my state, one can find those forms online.

Would the attorneys here suggest that it is time for an estate planning check up anyway after 7 years?
Depends on OPs willingness to spend money for good advice. I put less emphasis on getting the healthcare powers done by an attorney, but when you’re updating that one, you should be updating the financial power of attorney. The state forms for finance power are the equivalent of training wheels, they just aren’t great, very basic
bsteiner
Posts: 9290
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by bsteiner »

beyou wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 1:20 pm
bsteiner wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 12:58 pm After 7 years, you might or might not want to update your Will (or, in your case, since you're in California, most likely your revocable trust). It would depend on whether there were any changes in your assets or your family situation, or any changes in the tax law, that would warrant updating your estate plan.

The billing rate you mentioned seems low for California.
We often hear that it’s just as expensive to review existing plans as it is to create new when engaging a new client from a different law firm.

That said, if someone has already re-titled most assets into a revocable trust, is it common to revise the rlt without having to re-title assets (when hiring a new attorney who wants to revise to their style, current law or current family situation) ?
It doesn't take much time to do a quick review of a Will or revocable trust to spot major issues. But it would take a considerable amount of time to use it as the starting point for revisions.

I once had to do that. The significant other of one of our firm's largest clients was a lawyer. Our client wanted me to look at a draft of a Will that she had prepared and tell her how she should revise it. It took several times as much time as if I had prepared a new Will.

Amending and restating a revocable trust is the equivalent of doing a new Will. In other words, if it has 20 articles, you would delete Articles 1 through 20, and substitute the following new Articles 1 through X (with X being the number of the last article in the restated trust). As you point out, that avoids having to transfer any assets.
afan wrote: Tue Apr 02, 2024 2:25 pm ...

As for the "low" rate, could that be a discount for an existing client of the firm? Or could it reflect a small firm in a relatively low cost of living area in CA? What would be a screaming bargain for a senior partner at a Big Law firm in downtown LA might be quite reasonable for a lower cost lawyer in a smaller city.

Would the attorneys here suggest that it is time for an estate planning check up anyway after 7 years?
You are correct. There are lower cost areas of California, mainly inland. But we rarely deal with anyone there.

Time is one of several factors. It would depend more on whether there has been a change in the client's assets or family situation that would require the plan to be updated, or whether there has been a change in the tax law that would require the plan to be updates. Of course, the more time that passes, the greater the chance that one of those things has occurred. For example, just today, someone said that her father signed his Will more than 40 years ago. Not surprisingly, his assets, his family situation, the tax law, and his wishes have all changed since then.
Topic Author
RetiredCSProf
Posts: 1237
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:59 pm

Re: Updating estate plans prepared by attorney who retired

Post by RetiredCSProf »

[OP here] Thank you for the responses. I have no reason, at the moment, to change any estate planning documents other than the two medical-related documents that I mentioned. I have the original documents in hardcopy; the attorney who created them presumably kept copies until he retired.

The office of his previous law partner stated that the documents that they create are all digital now. They said I can go to them as a new client or go to someone else (as a new client).

I'm surprised that $550 per hour is considered a low rate for CA; I thought that was average?

I plan to use the online forms for the medical-related documents to make my changes. I have a new doctor who asked me for copies of the documents to keep on file.
Post Reply