We can’t say enough how important it is to work with an estate attorney to get all your estate planning documents complete-wills, powers of attorney, trusts, etc.
The art of estate planning is specialized, so in the same way you would look for a doctor who specializes in a certain type of medicine, or a reliable mechanic who knows everything there is to know about your car – you want to make sure you find an estate attorney who is knowledgeable in estates in your area. But, how do you know what you’re looking for in a good estate planning attorney?
What we recommend?
Research, due diligence, and doing initial consultations* with a few attorneys will help you greatly in finding an estate attorney that is a fit for you and your unique estate.
When you’re ready to start having initial conversations with estate attorneys, here are some questions to consider to help guide your decision in who you should ultimately work with:
Do They Specialize in Estate Planning?
Many attorneys claim to “do it all,” but when it comes to estate planning, specialized knowledge matters. Ask if estate law is their focus and how many estate plans they create each year.
Can They Simplify Legal Jargon?
Lawyers are known for their penchant for legalese, but a good estate attorney will break down complex terms for you. Test them out: ask them to explain what “probate” or “estate tax” really means. They should also be able to explain what estate planning documents you need and why you need them in a way that makes sense to you.
How Do They Handle Billing for Estate Planning Documents, Revisions and Updates?
An estate attorney should be able to clearly provide pricing for an estate planning package, which typically includes the last will and testament, powers of attorney, and advance directive. If they don’t have a fixed price they should be able to give you a ball park or at least an hourly rate so you can compare the cost to other attorneys. In addition, once your documents are complete, things can change year to year and you may want to switch out names of your executor or beneficiaries. If you do find you want to make minor changes to your estate planning documents, how do they handle these changes and how much will they charge?
How Customized is Their Advice?
Every estate is unique, and a cookie-cutter approach won’t cut it. Does the attorney take the time to understand the specific circumstances, assets, and liabilities associated with your estate?
Are They Open to Collaboration?
Estate planning can involve input from various professionals, including accountants and financial advisors. Ask if the attorney is willing to collaborate with other experts involved in your life to ensure they have the full picture of your estate and life.
What’s the Word on the Street?
Don’t skip doing your homework. Check reviews and testimonials to get a sense of their reputation. Word-of-mouth references from friends or family can also be invaluable.
Do They Listen and Respond Effectively?
Quality estate attorneys do more listening than talking, especially in the initial meetings. Pay attention to whether they listen carefully to your needs and concerns and answer your questions in a way that you understand.
What’s Their Turnaround Time?
Everyone is busy these days and while you will most likely choose an estate attorney who is busy with client work (a good sign!) you also need to find someone who is still responsive and answers your questions in a timely manner.
By focusing on these aspects during your search, you’re more likely to find an estate attorney who is not just good at what they do, but also compassionate, ensuring that your estate documents receive the attention they deserve.
*Some attorneys will charge for an initial consultation so be sure to ask if they charge before you book!