Choosing the right attorney for your estate.
Now that you have committed to planning your estate, your next step involves doing your homework to find the right estate planning attorney to assist you in achieving your goals. This work involves more than posing a question on Facebook, performing a Google search, or asking the traffic attorney, who worked to reduce a speeding ticket fine for you ten years ago. An estate planning attorney can provide a thorough understanding of the state and federal laws that affect how your estate will be inventoried, valued, dispersed, and taxed after your death.
Here are a few tips to help you find an estate planning attorney.
Personal references. Inquire with friends, trusted advisors, and business colleagues about whom they engaged in drafting their estate planning documents. Did they feel comfortable with the attorney? Feel there was a clear line of communication? Were fees reasonable? Deadlines met? Is there anything they would do differently?
Shop around and interview. A skilled estate administration attorney is paramount to the proper execution of your final wishes yet a personality match between you and the attorney is another critical factor. Do you feel comfortable with this person to hear your most personal, private information? Does s/he speak your language? For example, if crunching numbers is your thing, finding an estate planning attorney with an accounting background may put you at ease. On the other hand, an estate planning attorney with a social work background may be a better fit if family dynamics is of greater concern to you. In sum, your estate planning process will be significantly easier if you feel comfortable talking to your attorney.
Review the attorney’s website. Does the website highlight different services provided? Does the firm’s content marketing demonstrate it’s expertise? Can you complete an online intake form or schedule an appointment?
Contact your county and state bar associations.
Often these organizations provide free referrals to qualified, appropriate local, legal services.
Check the attorney’s disciplinary background with the state’s disciplinary board. This body receives complaints against lawyers from citizens and other sources, investigates those complaints, and prosecutes lawyers when allegations of unethical conduct by them appear to be justified.
Research online resources, estate-related.
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
American Bar Association- Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
Martindale- Hubbell Law Directory
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
Some questions to ask of prospective attorneys-
- How long have you been practicing estate planning/ administration?
- What steps are needed for your representation?
- How long does this process usually involve? In person meetings? Virtual?
- How will you keep me informed of your progress?
- Will anyone else be working on my planning- legal secretary, paralegal, other attorney?
- How do you charge for your time? Hourly? Flat- rate? A written fee schedule?
- What are other foreseeable additional expenses?
In conclusion, finding the right estate planning attorney does not need to be an intimidating process. By following these steps you can be assured you can find the attorney right for you and your estate.