Before hiring an estate planning attorney, there are a variety of factors to take into account, including your own needs and concerns, as well as the experience level of the candidates you consider. To help ensure you arrive at the best possible decision, be sure to ask the following questions.
What is the attorney’s primary expertise? Is it estate planning?
Whether you need a simple will or a more complex estate plan, you should work with an attorney who is experienced in estate planning matters. Even a simple estate can have unexpected complications, which an experienced estate planning attorney can help you identify and address.
How many years of experience does the attorney have?
The more estate planning documents an attorney has put in place, the more opportunity he or she has had to see the documents in action. The wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care documents used by attorneys in business across the years will have been revised to deal with everyday situations encountered when their clients die or incur a disability. This can give their clients peace of mind, knowing that the documents the attorney has prepared for them will be effective when they are needed.
Does the attorney have a formal updating and maintenance program?
Many estate planning attorneys contact their clients once or twice a year to:
- Inform them about any changes in estate law
- Explain new estate planning techniques
- Ask about life changes that will require modifications in client documents
- Check the progress of clients who are funding their trusts
Does the attorney charge a flat fee or an hourly rate for estate planning services?
This is an important question, as you don’t want to be surprised by hidden fees and costs. Knowing what to expect will enable you to concentrate on achieving your planning goals rather than worrying about costs.
Can you see yourself working closely with this attorney?
Once your prospective attorney has answered the previous questions to your satisfaction, you need to ask yourself one more important question: “Can I see myself working closely with this attorney?”
Even if the attorney has all of the right answers, keep in mind that you’ll be sharing the intimate details of your life with this individual. If you don’t feel comfortable with him or her, you may end up holding certain things back. If you decide that he or she won’t be a good fit, move on until you find someone with whom you can work and whom you can trust.