Finding the right attorney to help you craft your estate plan can seem overwhelming. Begin by making a list of attorneys with relevant experience and then narrowing it down.
When meeting with attorneys, look for ones specializing in estate planning and devote their practice to this area of law. They will be more likely to stay abreast of the latest developments.
Aside from the legal qualifications cited above, you should find out how much experience your prospective attorney, from an estate planning law firm, has handling trusts and estates. You should also be aware of his or her state-specific expertise in the practice. Find out if he or she has special certification or attends regular seminars to keep up with developments in estate planning law.
You should also be comfortable discussing sensitive matters with your attorney. You will likely have to divulge a great deal of personal information, including your final wishes, so it is vital that you feel at ease. Evaluate how your potential attorney communicates, noting his or her empathy, attentiveness and patience in listening to your concerns.
Ask your prospective attorney for references from previous clients. Also, look for a firm that handles cases in your area; however, be willing to work with a law firm that serves clients nationwide if necessary. This is particularly helpful if your estate is complicated and requires high expertise.
You will need an attorney with the experience to craft your unique estate plan. Depending on your situation, this may include expertise in maximizing benefits programs or addressing concerns specific to your financial goals and objectives.
Ask prospective attorneys about their education and legal work experience. Look for a history of referrals from satisfied clients, and consider their membership in professional organizations, which indicates their commitment to keeping abreast of new developments in this field.
During your interviews, pay attention to how each attorney explains complex legal concepts easily. Evaluate their responsiveness to your questions and concerns, and note how comfortable you feel working with them on highly personal matters. Ask about their compensation models, including whether they prefer flat fees or hourly rates, and be sure you understand all the costs associated with constructing your estate plan before committing. This will prevent any surprises down the road.
A good reputation is a vital factor to consider. Knowing that an attorney has a good track record of meeting and exceeding client expectations is essential.
Obtain recommendations from friends, family, and other trusted sources. Asking attorneys, financial planners, and CPAs for referrals is a great place to start. These professionals typically have worked with many attorneys, and they can often recommend a lawyer based on their experience.
Also, be sure to find out if the attorney is a specialist in estate planning. This is important because not all attorneys are created equal. Many attorneys will say that they do estate planning, but a true specialist devotes most of their practice to this area of law.
In addition, an attorney who focuses on this field of law is more likely to stay current on changes in the law and planning techniques that may affect your situation. You may want to ask how long an attorney has been practicing in this area and if they have any special certifications or credentials.
Estate planning involves intricate legal issues that must be carefully tailored for each client. As a result, an attorney may charge a higher hourly rate than someone with less experience.
Before you agree to work with an attorney, you should understand the fee structure. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for the initial consultation, usually a 30- to 60-minute telephone conversation. This gives the attorney insight into your family and financial situation and helps determine your estate planning needs.
Choosing the right estate planning firm is crucial for your financial future and for those you leave behind. Before making a decision, take the time to interview several attorneys. Choose a lawyer you are comfortable sharing intimate details about your personal life with and who is able to clearly explain complex legal matters. Doing your homework can help you find an experienced, knowledgeable, and affordable attorney to create your estate plan. To learn more, sign up for Fidelity Viewpoints weekly.