Asking the Right Questions

Are you, or someone you know, beginning the search for an estate planning attorney? If yes, then congratulations! So, where do you go from here?

What Not to Do

Do you simply start calling random local attorneys from the phone book and ask how much each charges for an estate plan? No.

Think about it. If you had chest pains, would you call local cardiac surgeons and ask for bids on how much each charges for open heart surgery? Why not? First, the surgeons would not know whether you were having a heart attack or if it was last night’s lasagna. Similarly, avoid any estate planning attorney who is willing to render a “diagnosis” without conducting a thorough examination of your unique circumstances and objectives.

What You Should Do

Traditionally, one of the best sources for professional referrals, whether to doctors, dentists, accountants, financial professionals or attorneys, is people you already know and trust who have used such services. A personal referral from a trusted family member, friend, or colleague is a strong referral. In addition, the Internet is a wonderful resource for research of all kinds, including finding and vetting estate planning attorneys. Just run a Google search for your location and “estate planning” to begin the process.

What You Should Do Next

Once you have identified some local estate planning attorneys, the process is only just beginning. You do not want to take any shortcuts when it comes to making proper estate plans to manage, administer, and eventually distribute everything you have to those you love most. Here are three things to evaluate when selecting the right estate planning attorney for you: focus, reputation, and commitment.

What is Your Focus?

Have you ever heard the expression that someone is the “jack of all trades, but the master of none”? That is not the attorney you want planning your estate. For example, if criminal defense, appellate litigation, and admiralty law are listed as “practice areas,” can you be confident regarding the depth of their experience when it comes to trusts, estates, real estate, and tax law?

When it comes to estate planning, the more your attorney is focused on estate planning the better. Be sure to visit the website of each attorney under consideration. Does the attorney have robust and educational estate planning content? Does the attorney let you know what to expect when it comes to his or her estate planning process?

What is Your Reputation?

It is hard to hide on the Internet. All things good and bad about something or someone can usually be found. There are multiple websites devoted to rating attorneys in every practice area. Consequently, it never hurts to find out how other attorneys and clients have rated a given attorney in terms of ethical standards and legal ability. Most of these websites will come up in response to your initial Google search.

What is Your Commitment?

Since the only constant in life is change itself, your estate plan likely will need updating over time. An attorney should have a process to stay in touch with you and remind you to review your estate plan.