Do We Need to Tell Our Old Attorney When We Update Our Estate Plan

 In Practical Matters, Wills

Question:

My wife and I drafted our wills with an attorney when our two children were young. We would like to make some minor tweaks to the will — for instance, adding a new charity beneficiary and removing a family member as a trustee to carry out the terms of our will had both my spouse and I died before our children reached adulthood. The attorney who drafted the will kept a copy (we have our own). However, we didn’t like the attorney who drafted our original will; he acted unprofessionally. My question is: Do my wife and I need to contact that previous attorney to request he return or destroy that original document OR can we simply have a new lawyer update our will and invalidate the old one?

Response:

You don’t have to be in touch with the original attorney, but it might be nice to let him know that he no longer needs to retain your original wills. Your new documents simply supersede the old ones. In your case, it’s not clear who has the original original documents and who has copies, you or the first attorney. If the attorney holds them, it would be helpful to him to let him know after you executed your new estate plan so that he doesn’t have keep the old ones secure. In our office, we have several fireproof safes stuffed with estate planning instruments, some of them for people we haven’t interacted with in decades. We could use the additional space if we knew we could destroy these documents.

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