Getting Started if You Have an Estate Plan That Needs Updating

Little Girl with her Grandmother

I work with many people who already have existing estate plans, but need to update them. Sometimes an existing plan was written many years ago, and needs a legal update.  More often, though, people come to see me for updates when they've had a major life change and need their estate plan to reflect that change: a new marriage; a divorce; a big move; a new baby; or something has changed with respect to a child doing well (or not).  This is all perfectly fine, and let's face it, completely normal -- no matter how much we wish life would stay the same, it just never does.

If you are serious about getting your plan updated, and willing to commit to a reasonable completion schedule, I would be honored to work with you. 

Please know, however, that the cost to update your existing plan will  exceed the cost of the original. Here's why: if your plan is, for example, 10-15 years old, and you need to change the tax structure of the trust, the names of the trustees, how your children will inherit the money, or any other significant change, you will need to create what's called a RESTATEMENT of trust. You keep the same name and date of the original trust, but you get an entirely new trust with updated provisions. When you restate the trust, you will also need to do a new Will, and usually you will update your Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. Essentially, you are creating a new estate plan. I charge my returning clients $5,000 to do a Restated Estate Plan, which is a 10% discount from what I would charge a new client for creating a new plan. It takes me the same amount of time, but I appreciate your loyalty. If I didn't draft your original plan, you are considered a new client.

For smaller changes, I can do an amendment to your existing trust and a codicil to your Will. For that, I charge hourly ($450/hour), and my retainer fee for this work is $1800 -- most amendments take between 3-4 hours of time, including our meeting to discuss your changes, your review of the changes, and your signing appointment.

To make an appointment, call my paralegal, Susie Granata, at (650) 237-7218 or email her at sgranata@gcalaw.com. She will send you a link to self-book at a convenient time.

Here's an outline of my process:

The Process

1. You will provide me with copies of your existing documents, either before we meet, or at the first meeting.  I do not keep original documents, but can scan them for you at our first meeting. I can set up a secure portal for you to upload them as well.

2. You will let me know what changes you know you want to make to your existing plan, either before you meet, or at the first meeting.

3. You will meet with me to discuss your changes.

4. I will review your existing documents and suggest any additional legal updates that would make sense, given current law and your current net worth and family situation. (Many clients can simplify documents drafted prior to 2012 because current estate tax exemptions levels mean that more than 99% of all estates will be not subject to the estate tax.)

5. Once you agree on the scope of the project, I will ask you to sign an engagement letter  and get to work. Updating your estate plan won't be effective until you sign the updated documents, so my entire focus during our work together is to get your project finished efficiently and effectively. I will bill you hourly for all work required to finish your plan after a six-month period, in addition to the Flat Fee.

Fees

I do my best to do all of my restatements on a Flat Fee basis. If I haven't work with you in the past, you are, essentially, a brand new client, so my Flat Fees still apply. If we have worked together, but your documents are more than 5 years old, we are, essentially, starting over if you have more than a small change that can be addressed with an amendment. I will offer you a 10% discount on my existing fees, to thank you for your loyalty over the years.

I believe that Flat Fee pricing makes for transparency, and lets you ask the questions you need to ask to understand the plan. For certain, complex matters, though, when you need my help to draft customized plans for complicated family situations or for sophisticated business assets, I have found that hourly rates are the fairest, and most transparent way to offer excellent service for more complex matters. My hourly rate is currently $450/hour.  If we work on an hourly basis, I require a retainer equal to  my estimated fee. After your first meeting, and before you sign her engagement letter, I will discuss the proper pricing for your plan and we will agree, together, on the pricing structure for your updated plan.

How Much Do The Flat Fee Portfolios Cost?
  • The "Peace of Mind" Portfolio is for a single person and costs $4000
  • The "Maximize Your Estate" Portfolio is for a couple and costs $5,500 for a basic plan for a married couple with an estate under $12-15 million dollars. This plan works for the majority of my new clients. 
  • The "Customized Flat Fee" For higher net worth estates, for those who want to leave their assets in lifetime trusts for children, for couples with non-citizen spouses, children with special needs, or those with vacation homes that they want to leave in trust, there are additional Flat Fee modules in addition to this base portfolio price. I will discuss this at our first meeting and you will not sign an engagement letter until the Flat Fee for your plan is determined and you agree with it.

To get your free copy of Getting Started Packet please fill out the form below.

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