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Does it matter if your "potential" estate attorney is near retirement?

Home Estate Planning Does it matter if your "potential" estate attorney is near retirement?

  • Avatar JK 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 140
    Joined: 01/09/2016

    I’m recently out of training and looking to take care of my estate planning. My in-laws have been very happy with their estate attorney and have been using them for 20-30 years with no complaints. My plan was to utilize him since he has served them so well and has significant experience due to practicing for such a long time. My only concern is that he is likely to retire in the next 5 years or so due to his age. I know the documents he creates… revocable trust, wills, etc… will certainly last beyond his retirement but changes/revisions would likely have to go through a different attorney.

    Am I overthinking this? Should I just proceed with meeting and working with the senior attorney and be happy with his experience and reputation…or should I be looking for someone who is significantly younger (late 30’s, early 40s) so that I could do changes with him in the future?

    #240792 Reply
    Avatar GasFIRE 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 218
    Joined: 01/08/2018

    Is he solo or in a firm with multiple attorneys? I would ask him point blank when my life situation or the estate laws change in the future, who would you recommend handle the revisions? If you’re satisfied with the answer proceed on. The estate attorney I used when I was at your career stage subsequently left the firm. When I needed revisions, the attorney who took over his work load there was familiar with my plan and handled the update. I still use him to this day.

    #240811 Reply
    Faithful Steward Faithful Steward 
    Participant
    Status: Financial Advisor, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 519
    Joined: 06/12/2017

    It only matters in the sense that, when you need your estate plan revised, you’ll basically be starting from scratch with a new attorney. That might possibly mean you pay for an extra hour or two for the new attorney to do their own discovery.

    Michael Peterson, CFP® | Faithful Steward Wealth Advisors
    https://ProsperousPhysician.com | (717) 496-0900

    #240936 Reply
    jfoxcpacfp jfoxcpacfp 
    Moderator
    Status: Financial Advisor, Accountant, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 8142
    Joined: 01/09/2016

    I understand your concern but I’d look at it this way – you’re working with a vetted professional, even if only for 3 – 4 yrs. If he’s a true professional, he will have a succession plan in place and is in the process of mentoring the next in line to follow his procedures. I’m sure he’s been asked “what happens when you retire?” many times (speaking from personal experience😉) – have an open conversation with him and then make your decision.

    Johanna Fox Turner, CPA, CFP, Fox Wealth Mgmt & Fox CPAs ~
    http://www.fox-cpas.com/for-doctors-only ~ [email protected]

    #240947 Reply
    Avatar jdkelso 
    Participant
    Status: Attorney
    Posts: 12
    Joined: 11/30/2018

    Most attorneys don’t just lock their doors and put up a “gone fishin’ ” sign.  I think having someone you trust set the stage for estate planning is a good idea.  In the next 5 years or so, you will be able to vet his partners or associates or find another attorney you trust.  Unless you have some unusual assets, your estate is going to be really small at this point.  If you have kids you want to set up a plan to help them and make sure they have a guardian if something happens.  You want to make sure your life insurance is enough and the beneficiaries are correct.  You also want a living will/medical power of attorney.  After that you need the 30-40 years to make it super complicated to manage all your wealth that will be generated from all the advice provided at the White Coat Investor!

    #240969 Reply
    Liked by childay
    Craigy Craigy 
    Participant
    Status: Spouse
    Posts: 2059
    Joined: 09/16/2016

    If you had two good attorneys charging a similar price, it might not be a bad idea to pick the one that was with a larger firm vs an older single-attorney practice.  But personally I wouldn’t be too concerned.  Especially if you know the old guy comes highly recommended, is reasonably priced, and the alternative is opening a phone book and starting your attorney search from scratch.

    However I recently had one client who came to me instead of their previous attorney, citing that he was concerned with their other attorney (a good, competent guy from my understanding) being older and unlikely to continue to serve them in the future.  It could have been other reasons, but I doubt we were much cheaper.

    It’s not an invalid concern.  Is he the only attorney at his firm?  If so, as a couple others mentioned above, ask him about his business succession plans.

    LEVEL 1 WCI FORUM MEMBER.

    #241016 Reply
    Craigy Craigy 
    Participant
    Status: Spouse
    Posts: 2059
    Joined: 09/16/2016

    Most attorneys don’t just lock their doors and put up a “gone fishin’ ” sign.  I think having someone you trust set the stage for estate planning is a good idea.  In the next 5 years or so, you will be able to vet his partners or associates or find another attorney you trust.  Unless you have some unusual assets, your estate is going to be really small at this point.  If you have kids you want to set up a plan to help them and make sure they have a guardian if something happens.  You want to make sure your life insurance is enough and the beneficiaries are correct.  You also want a living will/medical power of attorney.  After that you need the 30-40 years to make it super complicated to manage all your wealth that will be generated from all the advice provided at the White Coat Investor!

    Click to expand…

    It happens pretty frequently.  Not so much locking up their doors, more like one day, firm is closed because dead.

    In theory we’re supposed to have succession plans in place but there’s not a lot of penalties the bar association can assert against a dead guy.  Here it can be a pretty big problem too since most attorneys usually retain custody of the original testaments, and the clients themselves end up having to fight to get their documents back (or recover them at all).

    I’d guestimate there’s a non-negligible chance of your attorney biting the big one anytime mid 50s on.  All that stress, depression, alcoholism, divorces, really takes its toll.  😆  If you’re going to see an attorney in his 70s, yeah this becomes a big concern.

    LEVEL 1 WCI FORUM MEMBER.

    #241026 Reply
    Avatar Budgetmaestra 
    Participant
    Status: Attorney
    Posts: 41
    Joined: 04/30/2019

    I’d go with somebody younger. Chances are decent you may want to update stuff in 5-10 years so picking somebody younger makes sense.

    #241074 Reply
    Liked by StateOfMyHead
    White.Beard.Doc White.Beard.Doc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 937
    Joined: 02/06/2016

    Would you go to a physician in their 70s?  I have an appointment for next week.

    I have known this physician for many years and I am feeling quite comfortable, but hopefully this is a brief consultation involving one or two visits and all is well.  If it turns out to be something needing longer follow up, maybe I will decide to then see someone younger.  I kind of like the idea of the wisdom gained through all those years of experience.

    #241089 Reply
    Liked by jfoxcpacfp

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