“I don’t like lawyers, nannie.”
“No one likes lawyers, little boy.”
Great Estate Planning Attorneys Are Out There
If you were to pull up Google right now and type “estate planning attorney near me,” into the search engine, the top three picks from your area would pop up. If you wanted to see a wider range, you could click “More Places”, and up to twelve options will appear on your screen.
Some of those places might have good reviews and some may not, but realistically, you can’t know if an estate planning attorney will do a good job until you consult with him or her yourself.
On top of having to pick between different options, lawyers haven’t always had the best reputation. When people think “lawyer”, they think money – lawyers are expensive, lawyers want to use legal jargon you don’t understand so that you’ll pay them for more services, etc.
But not all attorneys have the integrity of a diabolical Charles Dickens character, we promise.
It’s possible for you to find an honest, forthright, and helpful estate planning attorney who will be on you and your family’s side, and is interested in utilizing the law on your behalf.
Choosing Your Estate Planning Attorney
As you go into an initial consultation with an attorney, keep the following criteria in mind. We think it’ll lead you to the attorney or law firm that fits your estate planning needs:
1. Find a Specialist
Roughly how many estate plans does this attorney create each year? He or she should easily be able to give you an estimate off the top of their head. If it’s not a significant amount (we’d say fifty or more), then although they may have knowledge of how to create an estate plan, they don’t specialize in this area of the law specifically.
2. Find Someone Who Works on Estate Administration
Estate planning and estate administration are two sides of the same coin. To be proficient at one, an attorney needs to thoroughly know both.
Estate administration requires the executor of an estate to distribute assets, pay remaining debts, etc. to close an estate when someone dies. If someone has a will, they appoint someone to take this role on at their death, but if they die without a will, the courts appoint one.
Either way, many executors need legal help in administering estates, because it can be a complicated process. You want your lawyer to understand estate administration so that he can effectively set up your estate plan to accomplish what you want after you’re gone, as well as help your heirs if they find that legal help is necessary to administer your estate.
3. Find Someone Who Listens Well and Understands Your Vision
Not only is this just common courtesy toward you as their potential client but also, the only way for an attorney to properly communicate your wishes through your estate planning documents is if they’re engaged and earnestly listening to what you have to say.
If they aren’t listening, they aren’t seeing you as an individual who needs an estate plan tailored specifically to you, they aren’t caring about your family, and they’ll do a subpar job drafting your documents.
4. Find Someone Who Lays Out Your Options
When we say you need an estate plan specifically tailored to your needs, it’s because there is almost always more than one way to accomplish something. There are different legal devices that can give you options for transferring your assets in various ways, and not everyone will go about things with the same goals or vision.
If an attorney insists you only have one option, that’s often a warning sign.
5. Find Someone Who Communicates Well
If they cannot communicate clearly to you, then they probably won’t communicate clearly in your documents. Simple as that.
6. Find Someone Who Explains Their Pricing Clearly
In our minds, we know of only two reasons an attorney wouldn’t tell you upfront what something costs –
One, he or she doesn’t know (which means they haven ‘t done this that frequently before)
Two, they don’t want you to know.
Both are scary, and both are good reasons not to use that particular attorney.
Finding The Right Estate Planning Attorney Is Worth Your Time
If you’re going to create a complete, legally-binding, and comprehensive estate plan that is sure to accomplish your end-of-life and relational goals, you will, without a doubt, need an estate planning attorney.
If you use the guidelines above, we think you’ll be much more likely to find the one that you and your family need.
We’d love to meet you and see if we’re the right estate planning firm for you. Click here to schedule your free consultation and visit with our team!