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TOPIC: Options for Updating Trust

Options for Updating Trust 1 year 10 months ago #1

  • jeff
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Hello,
My parents created a living trust back in the 80s. I think it's time to update it in light of the new estate tax laws and the age/health of my parents. The original attorney is still practicing but no longer has a local office. I'm wondering if it is possible to do an amended trust via the mail. Not ideal, but even after 30 years, one would hope the lawyer would still be familiar with it and have a copy of it.

The alternative is to go with a local attorney. The face-to-face exchange would be helpful. But a lot of the fee would go towards just having the lawyer read through the document and get familiar with it. I am looking for ways to handle the review and amendment process effectively yet keep costs moderate. I personally haven't dealt with a lawyer before so I'm not sure what is customary practice. Thanks in advance for any help.
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Options for Updating Trust 1 year 10 months ago #2

  • Michael P. Pancheri
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Hi Jeff,
I'm wondering if it is possible to do an amended trust via the mail.
Legally, sure! You don't even need a lawyer to amend a trust instrument. However, the question is whether it's smart to use a lawyer in the first place and, if so, does it make more sense to use a lawyer that you can meet with face to face.

Of course, it all depends upon the changes that your parents might want to make, or the changes that might be deemed advisable in view of new tax laws, or trust laws, etc.

In many cases, it is perfectly acceptable to correspond with a lawyer about such things via the phone and/or mail or email, etc. The need to be face to face is not always necessary today. However, many people still feel the need to meet face to face with a lawyer. That is certainly understandable, especially for people who are accustomed to dealing with people that way.

For that reason, your parents should make the determination as to whether they feel more comfortable dealing with their lawyer, albeit not face to face, or whether they would prefer to meet with someone whom they can actually meet with locally.

Besides your parents' preference, there are two other considerations:

1. There is no question that better results will flow from a face to face meeting with a lawyer than one conducted via the phone and mail. A face to face meeting allows each other to gain so much more from the visual aspects of such a meeting. It also allows for questions to be raised much easier and answers to be given with greater emphasis. In other words, you get a whole lot more out of a face to face meeting than you would from a phone call. For example, if your parents want to make changes in how their property is distributed upon their death, a lawyer will want to discuss those changes in some detail, which is not always possible without a face to face meeting.

2. Of course, the cost is always a consideration - and a face to face meeting with a new lawyer probably will involve some additional cost for the lawyer to get up-to-speed on your parents existing estate plan and what they want to accomplish at this point. You can control those costs to a great extent by getting cost estimates from a number of lawyers, having a firm commitment from each lawyer as to the services to be provided and the cost for those services, and asking for a set fee instead of an hourly rate.

Even though the fees might be higher for a local lawyer, it might be money well spent to have someone who is experienced and knowledgeable about trusts and estates taking a look at your parent's estate plan, including their trusts. After all, their estate plan is what's being relied upon by your parents (and by you) to distribute their property to you after they're gone. After the fact, it's too late to make any changes, so now is the time to make sure that everything will go smoothly. For that, I believe it's worth spending a little more to insure that there are no surprises later on.
Last Edit: 1 year 10 months ago by Michael P. Pancheri.
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Options for Updating Trust 1 year 10 months ago #3

  • jeff
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Thank you Michael for a very thorough answer. You've laid it out quite clearly for me and I will take action (on behalf of my parents) to check out the fee situation with several local lawyers.

Thanks again.
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