One of the changes that we've seen as a result of the pandemic is a greater number of people retiring. This is as true in the legal field as anywhere else. When your attorney retires, you may be wondering what to do next. In estate planning, the first thing to think about is "Where are my original documents?" Many attorneys retain client originals in their office or in secure storage facilities. Other attorneys return originals to their clients. If you receive a letter from your attorney announcing that they will be closing their firm and offering to provide your documents to you, please make arrangements to get these! In Massachusetts, probate is significantly easier if you can provide the court with an original will. Many financial institutions will only honor a power of attorney with an original signature. Having these documents can make things easier for you or your family if you need to use them.
The next question may be, "Do I need a new attorney?" This depends on the last time you reviewed your plan, and whether there have been changes in your life since then. Estate planning documents like wills and trusts are often designed to take into account life events. For example, a will may say something like "I leave my assets to my children, in equal shares, per stirpes." This means that assets go to children, and then to their descendants. For your purposes, this means that if you have grandchildren now, but didn't when you created your plan, you don't necessarily need to change the document. However, if you named the retiring attorney as your Executor or Personal Representative, you will want to change the documents to name someone else. You may also need to review things if there has been a significant change in your asset situation. We recommend that powers of attorney be updated every few years because financial institutions have become more cautious about fraud and identity theft. They want to be sure that the document that allows someone access to your accounts is still in effect.
When reaching out to a new attorney, let them know you have documents in place and see if the new firm will review them for you and make suggestions. Some firms prefer to re-do all a prior attorney's documents to be sure everything is up to date and consistent with their practices. Other firms will review documents and suggest changes to existing documents rather than re-drafting everything.
At CannonMurrayLaw, we generally consider these meetings to be initial consultations and will talk with you about any changes in your family or asset situation, take a look at documents, and make recommendations to bring things up to date. If your attorney has retired and you have questions, we'd be happy to hear from you!
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