Estate planning is much more than having someone draft your will. It is about finding a qualified attorney to make sure that your assets are disbursed per your instructions after you die. Not all attorneys make good estate planners and not all qualified estate planners may be right for your specific needs. So, before you schedule your first consultation with an estate planner, ask yourself the following questions and listen to your answers. They may help you locate the perfect match for you and your estate.
- Do you require a dedicated, experienced estate planner?
Depending on what you want your estate planner to do (e.g., draft a simple will or handle your healthcare documents), an attorney whose practice includes simple estate planning and probate matters might be an excellent choice. However, if your estate is a large, complicated affair, with many heirs to consider, you may want to hire an experienced lawyer whose primary practice is estate planning and estate tax reduction.
- Does your estate planner relate to you and your needs?
We recommend finding an attorney who is not only qualified as an estate planner, but also highly experienced. He or she may work wonders for your estate as well as your piece of mind. The more years of experience your prospective attorney has, the more opportunities he or she will have had to see their estate planning directives in action when a client becomes disabled or dies. Consequently, such a professional will know how to guide your estate as directed in your will.
- Will your estate planner assist with properly funding your assets into a revocable living trust?
No matter how well thought out an estate plan may seem, it will be useless after you die unless your assets have been titled in the name of your trust while you are still alive. While many law firms can provide the expert assistance to move your assets into a living trust, others will fail to understand the process or give you little guidance. Be certain to choose an attorney who will oversee the funding process. You should be prepared to pay your estate planner an extra fee to do this work for you, because you may never complete all of the necessary funding on your own.
- How much is your personal estate planner going to cost?
Unlike other segments of the legal profession, estate-planning attorneys tend to charge a flat rate for their various services. That is good news, as it allows you to know exactly the price of these services, which can also help you comparison shop. However, flat fees may not cover every estate-planning situation, so be prepared for the rare times when your attorney will start billing you by the hour or charge an additional flat fee.
- Is this attorney the one whom you can trust with your estate?
When all is said and done, do you feel you have found the right person whom you can trust with your estate? If there is anything about your candidate that makes you feel uncomfortable or unimpressed, then there’s a good chance you won’t be happy handing over your estate planning to this individual. Trust your instincts; after all, they have served you well over the years as you built up your estate.
A great estate planner – in the best of circumstances – should be viewed as a trusted friend, so choose wisely. You will need to trust your new attorney with your financial life’s work, something you would like handled with the care and respect that you put into building it. In the end, it is not only the care of your estate that is important, but also the care of your family’s future.