Your Estate Matters
What to do if your attorney has quit practicing law
YOU did your part. You selected an attorney. You took the time and made the effort to do you estate planning. Now you find that your attorney is no longer in practice and you're wondering what to do.
Attorneys are like all of us. There are changes that happen in their lives. Attorneys may retire, move away, become disabled or die. Estate planning reflects this. As time passes and lives change, plans need to be revised and updated.
So what should you do when you want to review your plan and you find out that your attorney is no longer in practice? How should you select a new estate planning attorney?
» First, consider choosing an attorney who is part of a law firm which concentrates in estate planning, and pick a law firm in which there are several estate planning attorneys. That way you are not likely to find yourself with an orphan plan a second time. You can have the expectation that you and your loved ones will have the support of the firm in the event of disability or death.
» Second choose an attorney who meets educational standards. The law is changing all the time. It is very important that your estate planning attorney have current knowledge of the various laws that effect estate planning.
In Hawaii, there is no state requirement for attorneys to take continuing education. Some organizations like the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys require their members to have at least 36 hours per year of continuing education in estate planning and related areas of the law. Choose an attorney who is committed to continuing education.
» Third after you have selected an attorney, arrange to meet with him or her to review your financial and family situation. Let the attorney know what your goals are for yourself and your family. Give the attorney an understanding of your particular situation so that if there are changes in your life, or a crisis arises, the attorney will have the background to respond quickly.
BEFORE you decide to engage the attorney, make certain that you feel very comfortable and that you can trust the attorney to be loyal to you and look out for your best interests. You are likely going to be working with the attorney more than once.
Your family members will need the help of your attorney, or your attorney's partners and support staff in a time of crisis.
Be prepared to listen. Your new attorney may point out new ways to reach your goals. You may have done only basic planning previously, and you may have done it long ago. Now may be the time to consider a next step in your planning.
As a responsible person, you know to surround yourself with caring professionals and friends who will be there in a crisis. They are part of your team in making your life move as smoothly as possible, even when there are the inevitable bumps.
If you learn that your estate planning attorney is no longer practicing, don't waste time before you locate a new attorney. You need that team member ready to help you and your family in the future.
Finding the right estate planning attorney before crisis strikes will bring you more of the peace of mind you sought in the first place.
Attorneys Judith Lee Sterling and Michelle H. Tucker, of Sterling & Tucker, can be reached through www.sterlingandtucker.com
or by calling (808) 531-5391.