Three Tips for Attorneys Contemplating Retirement

Emmy Pasternak, Community Outreach and Case Development Coordinator, LRIS

Last month, LRIS’s Emmy Pasternak interviewed BASF Member and LRIS Estate Planning Attorney Deborah Fox on Financial Literacy. This is part two of that interview.

Emmy Pasternak: Last year you gave a presentation to BASF members regarding retirement and succession planning. Can you provide a few pointers from that presentation?

Deborah Fox: Here are my top three pointers for attorneys contemplating retirement in the near future:

  1. Talk with your malpractice insurance provider about obtaining a tail policy to cover your ongoing professional liability. This is especially important for estate planning attorneys, as statute of limitations for work performed may only start to run upon the death of the client.
  2. If you are a solo practitioner, you may wish to contract with another attorney or firm to take over existing cases upon your retirement, incapacity or death. The scope of the successor attorney’s role can be limited to finding suitable replacement counsel and collecting final fees for your estate, or the successor attorney can take over all your files and clients. The California State Bar website has a good sample form entitled “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future” that authorizes a successor attorney to take necessary actions with respect to an attorney’s existing files and clients.
  3. If you have digital client files or accounts that are password protected, make sure that the passwords are stored in a secure location and that trusted individuals know how to access these passwords in case you are incapacitated or die. Alternately, you can open a password vault with a legacy feature that will allow an individual to “inherit” the password upon your death.

Retirement may be years or decades away but it is never too early to have a business succession plan. If you are an attorney in need of assistance with this process please contact BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 415.477.2374.