In this latest episode of the popular question and answer series, Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the question: "Is There a Charge to Have Wills Updated By The Same Lawyer?"
Attorney Burton discusses costs associated to change a will or update a will. It is a good idea to keep your estate planning documents updated. There are different things to consider while updating an estate planning document which one must know and which will make the whole process more efficient.
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I'm attorney Thomas Burton. I'm an estate planning and asset protection attorney here in Wisconsin and today we return to our popular 'Question & Answer Series' with today's question coming from Trevor, Wisconsin.
"We created our wills in 2002. Is there a charge to have them updated, if we go to the same lawyer's office? Need to change some phone numbers and power of attorney names on the wills. Power of attorney for health and durable power of attorney for finance on the paperwork we created back in 2002."
This is an excellent question. I generally recommend you review your estate planning document every five to ten years, to make sure they're consistent with your wishes and still meet with your current family situation and you want to make sure, the people you name to act as personal representative, trustee and agent under your powers of attorney, are still the people you would want to act today.
If you want to change the name of an agent in your healthcare power of attorney or financial power attorney, the best way to do this is execute a new document. The healthcare power of attorney in Wisconsin was just updated recently, in the beginning of 2020 and so, if your last one was 2002, it would make sense if you're changing names of the agents to sign a new document at that time in my opinion. With modern computers and drafting technology, it's often easier to just re-execute the document, than try to change one name inside of it.
For financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney that would be the best way to do it.
Also because it's been 18 years since you last executed them, these documents do get updated by the legislature. The ones you signed are not invalid but if you want to change the name of an agent, then it's worth doing.
A phone number in my opinion is not so important, that is not doesn't make the document legal or not legal. It's just a way to get a hold of someone. But if you want to change a name, it's likely worth doing it.
Now, if you need to update the will, you're going to need to either execute a 'Codicil', what we call a 'Codicil' is, the way you can amend a will or again, an entirely new will, if you're making a lot of changes then it might make sense to just adopt a new will, that revokes entirely the previous will. An important thing with the will is you need to do this in front of two disinterested witnesses. So if you're planning all these changes, I would let your attorney know in advance, exactly what you want to change. So they can do it for you as efficiently as possible because when I have clients come in, I try to put a plan together that will last them 5/10/20 years, however long they feel it meets with their wishes. My goal is always to not have them come in often to make changes because that requires their time and my time and ends up costing them money. So if you have a list of changes, the best way would be, I would contact that firm you used before, see if they still have your information on file and ask for an estimate to make the updates that you just listed here to your power of attorney wills and healthcare power of attorney and the more you make it simple for them, lay out exactly what you want to change, they can likely do it faster for you and end up costing less money. At least that's how I would approach it.
As far as fees, I would have checked with that office you worked with. Most lawyers are going to charge you, if you need to update the documents. Simply because the way I do it is I charge a flat fee when I draft the documents for people and I tell them, our goal is to not have to make a lot of changes but if you do need changes, you can come back in and I generally just charge you hourly for that time needed to update the documents which is usually much less than the time spent drafting them and putting it all together in the first place. However, that's the fairest way I've found to do it because some clients don't need any changes for 10-20 years. Others might be the type who change their mind frequently and to me, it doesn't seem fair to just do free changes for one client, all the time and another client doesn't need any changes for 20 years let's say. So it's very hard to know and so, often at least at my office, we're going to charge you for our time if we make updates to your documents.
So check with the law firm you worked with to see their policy. Some law firms let you pay an annual fee and that includes all updates to your documents. If you're on an annual fee update plan with that firm, then it might be included. So look at the original fee agreement you signed and I would just send them an email like you did here. Lay out what you want to change and ask for an estimate of what it would cost. Then you can decide whether and when to proceed.
So this is a good question about fees and making updates to estate planning documents. I hope this is helpful to other people watching as well. If it has been helpful, please consider giving this video a like, so that others will see and benefit from this information as well.
Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.
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