Even with your estate plans in place, you might be facing the type of change in your life that requires an update to your plans.
One of the most important aspects of estate planning is working with an attorney —the right attorney. But where do you begin? How do you find the right one?
If you already know an attorney, financial planner or CPA, that’s a perfect place to start. It’s likely they’ve work with attorneys in the estate-planning field, and they can offer a recommendation. You can even ask who they use to handle their own estate planning.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Take attorney “specialist directories” with a grain of salt.Attorneys usually pay to be listed, and they get to control the language and reviews.
2. Unless you have additional legal needs, you most likely do not need a large corporate law firm.An individual practitioner or small firm may provide you with the personalized service you need.
3. Make sure this is someone with whom you feel comfortable.You will need to disclose personal information, and you don’t want to feel embarrassed or intimidated by the people who are working on your behalf.
Once you’ve found some options, ask the right questions:
1. Have they worked with other clients similar to you? You’d like to work with someone who has experience with your specific needs.
2. How many years of experience do they have? The more, the better —you don’t want to be a learning curve.
3. Do they have malpractice insurance? If not, look elsewhere, because you could be held responsible for mistakes.
4. Does the attorney belong to an organization that helps them stay current on estate planning? Examples are (but not limited to) The National Association of Estate Planners and Councils; The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; WealthCouncil LLC. Groups such as these provide members with the opportunity for education on estate planning developments.
5. Is the attorney up front about fees? While it’s impossible to know the exact cost of each case, an attorney should be able to give you a range based on your information.
6. How long will the estate planning work take to complete? In most cases, it should be within a 30-day range.
Remember that these are only simple guidelines. A large majority of Americans do not have a will or an estate plan in place, and a good estate plan helps your family and the causes you care about.