My Attorney Just Retired – What Now?
Compliments of the Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC
Written By The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys; edited by Andrew T. Slaton-Freeman
You’ve established lasting and productive relationships with the professionals in your life: dentists, doctors, attorneys, and tradesmen. What should we do when the pros leave their practice? They may retire, move to a new state or pass away. If your estate planning attorney is no longer available, it opens up a lot of questions– are they obligated to pass your file to someone else in the firm? If they practice alone, will your information be passed to another lawyer? Do they have obligations to you?
Broadly speaking, there are some best practices that an estate planning attorney should use when they retire or close shop. First: they should notify you! This seems obvious, right? After all, how can you take any action or plan ahead if you don’t know that your attorney is leaving their practice? Second, the attorney should return any property they have in their possession which belongs to you. Remember, your attorney is obligated to honor confidentiality expectations, so they will not simply forward your file to another firm without speaking with you first. That is an important decision only you should make. However, you might want your current attorney to recommend another professional they trust.
Even if an attorney has been recommended by current representation, it’s still best to practice due diligence in examining whether or not they’re the right fit for you. You’ll want to consider experience, fees, commitment to practice area and reviews from trusted sources. Are they a member of reputable organizations? Do they have a good reputation in the community? How long have they been in practice? These are all factors that may play into your decision.
Once you’re satisfied with what you’ve discovered, you’ll want to schedule a consultation with the new attorney. Don’t discount the importance of comfort or their “bedside manner!” Are you comfortable discussing estate planning topics that may be intensely personal with them? If you’re uncomfortable disclosing information, then trust your instincts. By the same token, be careful with comparing the relationship you had with your previous attorney. Odds are, it was built over time. A wise person once noted that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Don’t be afraid to ask the new attorney questions. Get to know each other and assess how well they’ll fit your needs. Is there anything in your file that is perhaps outdated and needs to be revised? Are there any potential solutions which can reduce your tax burden? Remember, this is your life and your future – don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. You want to be sure you’re both on the same page.
You’ve worked hard to build your assets. Show that same commitment and wisdom as you go about the business of selecting new representation. The easier the transition, the less stressful it will be.
Want to learn more about estate planning? Feel free to peruse our other articles, such as these: