This morning I was visited by our elderly neighbor who needed to use our phone because hers wouldn’t work. After using our phone and chit-chatting a bit she asked me how often I think that a will needs to be updated.
Now, I told her I’m a salt lake city bankruptcy lawyer, and I don’t do a whole lot of estate planning law, but I do enough to know that a will never “expires”, although you might need to update it if circumstances have changed regarding the people you’re leaving your estate to. For instance, an adoption, a death, a birth, or a marriage could have unforeseen effects on the disposition of your property.
When I gave my neighbor this advice she said, “ok, well the executor to the will passed away, my husband passed away, I don’t trust two of my kids with money, one of my kids got married and another adopted a child; but my cousin is a lawyer as well, and he said I don’t have to do anything.”
Well, like I said, I’m not an estate planning attorney. But that sounds like bad legal advice. This lady’s will is clearly useless as to execute her intentions, she obviously needs to have it updated. So why did her cousin give her such rotten advice? Well, maybe he knows more about the situation than I do, and realizes that it won’t make a difference given the structure of her current will. Or maybe the guy has no idea what he’s talking about.
The point is this: you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor to have heart surgery, so why would you see a personal injury lawyer about estate planning? If you are considering filing bankruptcy, see a competent bankruptcy attorney. Don’t go talk to the lawyer that did your cousin’s adoption, or the lawyer who helped your neighbor form a business entity. Some people don’t realize this, but all lawyers do not know all areas of the law. The law is large and complex, and lawyers specialize because it’s impossible to know everything you need to know to adequately represent someone with any legal problem.
Your family lawyer may not know about reaffirmation agreements, preferences, and the means test; but your salt lake city bankruptcy attorney will – and that is very very important!