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Does Your Attorney Have a Maintenance Program?

By Atty. Marcus Collins

Traditional estate planning treated estate plans as a one-and-done kind of “product.” The “one-and-done” method is not conducive, however, to plans that accomplish all the good they can. That’s exactly why we have a formal maintenance program for our clients at the Estate Planning Center. And it’s exactly why you should ensure your plan is being kept up to date.

Simply put, the clients would meet with the attorney (probably once), give some information about themselves, and the attorney would choose which form on his computer to squeeze the clients into. After that, the form would be printed, the clients would sign and be on their way, and that would likely be the end of any actual work done on the estate plan. That’s because of the flawed approach that permeated the field of estate planning.

That flawed approach treated the estate plan as a once-created-no-maintenance-required product. Like a hammer, the traditional approach expects no real maintenance to have to be done—it was built, and now it’s there to supposedly do its job. But estate plans aren’t like hammers at all. In fact, they’re more like automobiles.

Anyone who’s owned a vehicle knows that regular maintenance is required. The oil needs changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. After so long, the mechanic will recommend that some fluids be flushed. Oh, and make sure you keep your brakes regularly maintained! Things go out of date on your vehicle; and things go out of date in an estate plan, too.

It’s fairly common knowledge now that federal tax law changes in some way every year. But estate planning isn’t only affected by tax law. Other areas of the law, such as laws affecting trusts and administration of estates, family law, and business law affect estate plans as well. This means every estate plan that is not regularly maintained will quickly go out of date, and might not accomplish the clients’ original goals (consider a plan that was written 20 years ago and how outdated that form must now be)!

Considering also the changes you face over the course of your personal life (adding members to the family, losing family members, financial situation changes, assets change, relationships change, experience grows), and you can quickly see how important it is to regularly maintain the oil, brakes, etc. on your estate plan. This is exactly why we have a formal updating process in our firm—to ensure our clients estate plans never pass their expiration date.

At the Estate Planning Center, our attorneys only want to put their names on estate plans that work, and a formal updating program is essential for that.

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