What Happens if Something Happens To Your Estate Planning Lawyer?

What happens to your Will or estate plan if your estate planning attorney dies, retires, quits practicing, or is otherwise not available when you or your family need estate legal services in the future?

I get this question often. Clients mistakenly believe that their estate legal program will fall apart if the attorney who prepared and implemented the plan is not around at a later date.

People who put an estate legal program in place typically have either a Will-based plan or a Living Trust-based plan.

Over the years, many people have gone to "other" attorneys or firms to get their Will done. Later, when they need to change their Will (perhaps change the heirs; or change the executor) they come to me to either make the changes, or, when someone dies, to handle the probate (also known in Louisiana as "Succession"). When we provide those subsequent legal services, the previous attorney or firm does not have to be located or communicated with. Easy to make the transition.

When someone creates a Living Trust-based estate planning program, they often mistakenly believe that legal documents must be updated every time they buy or sell property, or even open an investment account. That assumption is incorrect. The key is, simply, to buy the new property, or open the investment account, in the name of the trust. And when the Settlor of a trust dies, note that  many Living Trusts are settled with no attorney involvement whatsoever. So if the attorney who helped you implement your Trust-based plan is not around when you need to name new beneficiaries, or settle the trust when you die, it's OK.

It is not unlike when you lose the services of your doctor, your CPA, or your financial advisor. You simply find someone else that you know, like, and trust to pick up where you left off with the other professional service provider.

But note that on a personal note, it looks like my three oldest children will be lawyers. My oldest passed the Bar Exam and became a lawyer four months ago. My second son is in his second year at LSU Law School - his plans have always been to come work with his old man. My third son graduated in Finance a semester early and has been admitted to both LSU and Tulane law schools. So, it's likely that my firm will be around for, let's say, at least another 50 years or so - but who can predict the future?

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
Phone: (225) 329-2450