I recently wrote a blog post on how often everyone should review their estate plans -- when you're younger, when circumstances change; when you're older, every five years. It just happened that after posting that blog, I had the opportunity to review the new book by my colleague and friend, Vincent E. Bonazzoli, How an Ordinary Lawyer Creates and Sustains an Extraordinary Client Care Program, in which he explains that estate planning is all about planning for unknown future events and circumstances.
Attorney Bonazzoli explains that we and our clients don't know:
- When we will become incapacitated or die.
- What laws will be in effect at that time.
- What assets we will own.
- What our family situation will be.
- What our goals will be when illness or death strikes.
Attorney Bonazzoli's approach (and he does himself a disservice by calling himself an "ordinary" lawyer), is to enroll all of his clients in a maintenance plan where he stays in touch with them to update their plans as necessary, coordinate with his clients' financial planners and accountants, and explain the plans to family members as appropriate. This way, he and his firm are always on top of the situation and his clients' plans are always up-to-date, no matter when they become needed.
Episodic Versus Annual Consultation
In my blog post, I suggest times when it is appropriate for clients to review their estate plans. Both approaches are aimed at making sure plans are up-to-date, but mine puts the onus on the client to let us know when his or her circumstances have changed. Attorney Bonazzoli's approach puts the responsibility on the attorney.
The question is which approach do clients prefer. Some would like the comfort that comes with knowing that their attorney is always watching out for their best interests. Others don't want to pay an annual fee to make sure this happens and don't want to spend so much time with their attorney.
Clearly, there's no one right answer. Some attorneys and some clients are more comfortable with one approach and others with the other. But I'd be curious to know which approach you prefer. Please comment below.