Many estate planning attorneys arrange their practice using a transactional model. Once the attorney has drafted estate planning documents and the client has signed them, the attorney-client relationship ends. Clients with these estate plans typically store their documents in a safe place and almost never update them. This arrangement is the estate planning’s version of the rotisserie oven: “set it and forget it.”
One unofficial study found that the time between when a client made or last updated their plan and when the client passed away was 18 years! Because of changes in the law and in a client’s life, estate plans created years ago rarely work well today. Clients with older estate plans usually ask us to review them, and we have yet to find one older plan that matches the clients’ current wishes.
What Can Happen if Your Plan is More Than a Few Years Old?
A durable financial power of attorney form is the estate planning document that allows an agent to act on your behalf. This form is especially helpful if you become incapacitated because it allows your agent to manage your affairs. However, banks rarely accept a durable financial power of attorney form that is more than a few years old. If you haven’t updated your estate plan recently and you become incapacitated, there’s a good chance that your agent will have to get the court’s authority to manage your affairs—the exact step the power of attorney aimed to avoid.
How Are We Different?
Our office takes a different approach. We want to have relationships with our clients so that their estate plans evolve as their life circumstances change. This way, when tragedy strikes, our clients know that their wishes will come to fruition, and that the process will be as simple and smooth on their loved ones as possible.
To this end, we have created a Client Care Program. All clients are automatically enrolled in the client care program for the first year and have the option to remain in the program for a nominal fee each year. The Client Care Program includes many services designed to help clients keep their estate plan current and help their loved ones smoothly manage the client’s affairs in case of death or incapacity. These services include:
- Reasonable Access to the Firm
- Annual Summary and Option for Free One-Hour Meeting with an Attorney
- Free Word-Processing Changes to Your Revocable Planning Documents
- Discount for Additional Future Estate Planning Requirements
- Emergency Healthcare Directives Card
- Emergency Healthcare Directives Card for Your Immediate Adult Family Members Who Reside in Arizona