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Lawyer leaving us hanging on wills/POAs
Old 06-27-2017, 05:46 AM   #1
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Lawyer leaving us hanging on wills/POAs

In 2004, we had an attorney draw up our wills, POA and medical POA before we went overseas.

Some things have changed, such as our choice of executor, so in April this year I contacted the attorney, who said he'd update the documents for $700.00. He still had the original Word documents in his system. We made an appointment to come and sign the new documents later that week.

Due to court commitments, he canceled on us 3 times. We went away for 2 weeks and forgot about the wills for a little while. Then about 2 weeks ago, I emailed the lawyer to set up a new appointment. No response. I called and left voicemail. No response. Another email...nothing

What to do?
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Old 06-27-2017, 06:48 AM   #2
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Unless you're in a hurry, I would wait a week or so for a response. If no response, then send another email. If no response from that email in a couple of weeks - then get a different lawyer.
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Old 06-27-2017, 06:57 AM   #3
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Would it be reasonable to think that the first lawyer can't collect the $700 if he doesn't respond in a reasonable time? The changes aren't huge, but they matter. I guess I could scratch out/replace the executor's name and few other changes on the old documents.

We discussed going to someone else, but it would cost more, since they would be retyping the old docs. We also considered doing the documents ourselves, but for various reasons, are not totally confident about that.

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Unless you're in a hurry, I would wait a week or so for a response. If no response, then send another email. If no response from that email in a couple of weeks - then get a different lawyer.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:00 AM   #4
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Would it be reasonable to think that the first lawyer can't collect the $700 if he doesn't respond in a reasonable time? The changes aren't huge, but they matter. I guess I could scratch out/replace the executor's name and few other changes on the old documents.

We discussed going to someone else, but it would cost more, since they would be retyping the old docs. We also considered doing the documents ourselves, but for various reasons, are not totally confident about that.
Don't you OWN the docs having paid for them originally? Make them give you the electronic (Word) versions - I think you already paid for them, IMHO.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:02 AM   #5
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Before I can make him do that, I have to "make" him stop ghosting me!

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Don't you OWN the docs having paid for them originally? Make them give you the electronic (Word) versions - I think you already paid for them, IMHO.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:13 AM   #6
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Stop by his office and pick up the files--email him that you will be doing that and when, unless he tells you otherwise.

I don't think I would really trust that the revisions would ever be done by this attorney even if he did finally meet with you about them.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:14 AM   #7
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I'm not a lawyer but I worked for lawyers for 3 years in the summers I was in college and they did a lot of wills.

First of all, do NOT alter the original will with handwriting. That may void it- I'm not sure.

There's something called a Codicil to a will, which is rarely used now- it keeps the original will intact but notes specific changes. It has to be signed and witnessed just like a will. They're not much used anymore because back in the old days, changing a will meant they had to re-type a whole new document and carefully proofread it, so this was a shortcut. Not needed anymore with word processing.

If the other changes are as straightforward as changing the Executor (and remember you'll need to name new alternates or state that those don't change), I'd be tempted to see if there's an on-line form to do what you want.

I'd also send a Registered letter to the attorney and tell him you no longer need his services.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:50 AM   #8
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If the guy is a problem, and he obviously is, it is false economy to stick with him just to possibly save a few bucks. Use your network of friends to find other lawyers specializing in wills, trusts, and estates and interview two or three. Pick the one you like best and give him the paper copies of your documents. He will have OCR capability and can create a digital copy at very low cost.

There is a folk tale common to many cultures that I always think of in situations like this. Here is one version: GIRL AND THE SNAKE Story, Young Girls Saves a Rattlesnake's Life and it Bites Her Because He's a Snake in the Grass Ex-Friends & Backstabbers Quotes

Fire the other guy using a registered letter as previously suggested.
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Old 06-27-2017, 08:14 AM   #9
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I had a similar experience. I was updating a will made many years before with the same lawyer. The changes were not complicated yet significant in wording. He did the POA and health care directives immediately, but after we went over my wishes for the will things slowed to a standstill. Emails went unanswered over many months, a letter was not acknowledged, calls were not returned. Finally, I called every week. The para then made the changes, but it took several revisions to get it done correctly. It was just shy of a year for the whole process. Some time has passed now and I plan to retrieve the original will from this lawyer. I would not want my heirs to deal with this run around.

My suggestion is to move on and find someone dependable even if it costs a few bucks. Going in with a copy of the original and the changes you want should save some time.
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Old 06-27-2017, 08:50 AM   #10
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Wouldn't some new lawyer have the software to read in the old will and get it into their system? Then write a codicil if the changes are not massive?

Or maybe you could get the old will into Word format if a new lawyer says he can work with that. Probably a stretch.

I'd ask around as perhaps some lawyer would like new business.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:09 AM   #11
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Im glad you posted this. I dont have the slightest idea where our wills are. My executor was my old partner from work( I was best man at both of his weddings). He has moved, and he is sadly now a widower, and probably has zero idea where his copy is.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:18 AM   #12
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Wouldn't some new lawyer have the software to read in the old will and get it into their system? Then write a codicil if the changes are not massive?

Or maybe you could get the old will into Word format if a new lawyer says he can work with that. Probably a stretch.

I'd ask around as perhaps some lawyer would like new business.
Even a printed copy I'd think would do fine and let the new lawyer work off that. Might cost a bit more than the original Word document, but may be worth not putting up with the old lawyer.

Sometime professionals forget the old axiom of who's hiring who?
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:40 AM   #13
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Im glad you posted this. I dont have the slightest idea where our wills are. My executor was my old partner from work( I was best man at both of his weddings). He has moved, and he is sadly now a widower, and probably has zero idea where his copy is.
The lawyer who drew up your wills probably has copies. We keep ours in the safe deposit box. The executor can get into the box with copies of the death certificate (as I recall checking with the bank on this).
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:04 AM   #14
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My suggestion is to move on and find someone dependable even if it costs a few bucks. Going in with a copy of the original and the changes you want should save some time.
Agreed, but the "find someone dependable" part is the problem. You won't know a new attorney is not dependable until he/she also won't return calls years later.

I don't have a solution but can say I've experienced the same problem more than once.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:16 AM   #15
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Would it be reasonable to think that the first lawyer can't collect the $700 if he doesn't respond in a reasonable time? The changes aren't huge, but they matter. I guess I could scratch out/replace the executor's name and few other changes on the old documents.

We discussed going to someone else, but it would cost more, since they would be retyping the old docs. We also considered doing the documents ourselves, but for various reasons, are not totally confident about that.
It sounds like part of your question is whether you will have to pay the $700 or some part of it because he may have already done the work and may attempt to bill you for that effort. I don't think you have to pay for undelivered work when he's the one who cancelled and rescheduled the first 3 delivery attempts.

Assuming he has a paralegal or office manager, what I would do in this situation is call his office and say that since it's been a few months and both sides are so busy and you haven't been able to find a mutually convenient opportunity to complete this task, you'll be coming by on Friday morning to have them put the previously signed version of the electronic files on your thumb drive, which you will bring. Then do it. Either the documents will be ready when you get there, and you can sign them and pay him, or they won't be and you shouldn't owe anything. In either case, bring the thumb drive and get electronic copies for future use.

If he's a solo practice without any kind of assistant and unreachable by phone, just leave a voice mail telling him that since you haven't been able to connect, you'd like to get the electronic versions of the documents you previously signed so that you can proceed with getting them updated. You will need those files by Friday and you appreciate his prompt attention to this matter.

Even if you can't get the Word docs, you should be able to scan the pages you have and run them through OCR software. You'll still need to do a proofreading pass, but the software is pretty good at reading clean printouts.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:42 AM   #16
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Uhmm, one insight from your experience is that anyone getting a will/trust should request an electronic file as part of the price at time of service. Perhaps, even providing the usb drive to make the point will encourage delivery.
We did this when we had our RVT and wills done and had the USB returned to us as we were completing signing of the docs.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:45 AM   #17
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Agreed, but the "find someone dependable" part is the problem. You won't know a new attorney is not dependable until he/she also won't return calls years later.

I don't have a solution but can say I've experienced the same problem more than once.
Agreed, just like the "finding a good FA" discussion, how does a lay person determine if the attorney is good and dependable, and will be there for you many years later?

Now that our kids are all majority age, and dependable, we should re-do our paperwork. I am really leaning towards using the NOLO publications to guide me to come up with my own documents. I won't really call this "DIY", I'm using NOLO instead of a local attorney.

I have a pretty strong feeling that the work NOLO does has been held up to more scrutiny than the work of some attorney I choose based on whatever. My experience with my MIL's Estate Attorneys re-enforced this to me. I found an error in their documents, and when I showed it to them, they said it was correct. But it didn't make sense. When we were in the office, I had the main attorney explain it to me, and he couldn't, agreed I was right, and edited it on the fly. That did not instill confidence in me. And this was not a fly-by-night place, a very credible place with a long history as Estate specialists in a high net worth area. And a layperson like me finds errors? What else is wrong in there that I couldn't determine.

The NOLO documents are far easier to read and understand than what I've seen from local attorneys. Seems to me that especially if the executors/successor-trustees are lay people, the document should be written so they can understand it. But this had all sorts of fluff added to make it look impressive (I assume), but it just confuses things.

When I re-do these documents, I'll sit down with my kids so both us and them understand them.

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Old 06-27-2017, 11:00 AM   #18
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So, if I am reading this correctly, all you have are POAs and a will. To make updates the attorney wants $700. How much does an attorney want to do a straight forward will with medical and financial POAs

If it is twice $700, I'd pay it just to get rid of this headache. Scanning a document is fine, but seriously, is the will not just boiler plate Certainly the POAs are nothing more than boiler plate.

As you've guessed, you probably need a new attorney. One that is housed in a small to medium firm that handles multiple legal matters (ie, traffic tickets, real estate, family law, etc. along with estate planning). That way, even if the estate lawyer leaves the firm you have a client relationship.

HTH,
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Old 06-27-2017, 11:14 AM   #19
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So, if I am reading this correctly, all you have are POAs and a will. To make updates the attorney wants $700. How much does an attorney want to do a straight forward will with medical and financial POAs

If it is twice $700, I'd pay it just to get rid of this headache. Scanning a document is fine, but seriously, is the will not just boiler plate Certainly the POAs are nothing more than boiler plate.

As you've guessed, you probably need a new attorney. One that is housed in a small to medium firm that handles multiple legal matters (ie, traffic tickets, real estate, family law, etc. along with estate planning). That way, even if the estate lawyer leaves the firm you have a client relationship.

HTH,
Rita
This is the best and simplest suggestion of all. Start over with a new will, new attorney.
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Old 06-27-2017, 11:51 AM   #20
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That's one of the reasons we went with a big law firm with multiple offices and numerous lawyers for our estate planning docs. Their fees were higher than a small attorney practice but we meet every few years for a review. The review is free of charge unless you make changes.

For us the peace of mind is worth the cost.
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