Every lawyer and every law firm does things differently in terms of charging for changes to an existing will or trust. For example, I have heard some lawyers say they will not charge for changes for life. Is that your life or their life, I wonder!? What if they retire next week? Does somebody else take on the free changes? On the other hand I have heard some that charge for changes even at the rough draft stage.
There is no right “answer” but rather I think it’s important that you know what YOUR attorney charges. You should know this BEFORE you hire them.
Many years ago I determined that the best practice for my clients was to offer NO CHARGE FOR CHANGES DURING THE FIRST YEAR. This is not exactly 365 days of course. I have had clients come in after 13 months and I have gladly made changes for no charge. It’s just an approximation of one year. My feeling is that I want you to sign your documents because in almost every single case a signed estate plan is better than no estate plan. I thus want to encourage people to sign their documents even when they are still debating some small issues. GET IT DONE is my motto for clients!
As I have told clients in recent weeks if they sign their documents now they won’t have to pay for changes until 2014!
What about after that? Well, I typically charge existing clients very modest fees for changes. A typical change will be billed at 1/2 to 2 hours of my time depending on how involved and how many documents are being changed. Often it’s a very simple deletion of a name in one document so a 1/2 hour charge is normal. On the other hand some people need to modify all their documents so a 2 hour charge is more likely. There are rare cases where it can be more more than that of course. It just depends but I will always try to tell you up front so you know what you are about to spend.
Of course even better than all that… how about we create really flexible documents that do not need to be changed!? That’s my goal when I set up an estate plan. Back up plans, contingency plans, and the like so that your plan will not have to be changed!
Contact me to discuss your case. -John