When you are creating your estate plan, one of the most important decisions you can make is selecting the right attorney to assist you. Your estate plan is a personal and private matter, so you want a lawyer that is not only experienced, but one that you trust and makes you feel comfortable.
How do you find a good lawyer? Many people ask family and friends for referrals. However, the best lawyer for them may not be the right attorney for you. Your local Bar Association may also provide you with a list of estate planning lawyers in your area, but there is no assurance that these attorneys are qualifed. They are simply lawyers who signed up with the Bar to receive referrals. The best way to find your attorney is to do your due diligence. That means asking your friends and family how they know the lawyer, what kind of work he or she has done for them, and if they consider the lawyer an estate planning expert. Then do your own research which is easy now via the internet. Other lawyers usually know who the experts are also. But beware the laywer who does divorce or bankruptcy or personal injury or criminal law and says “sure I can help you with that”. You truly want a specialist. However you find your attorney, it is helpful if you are prepared for your initial meeting with him or her.
How do you prepare for your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer? First, ask them to verify that they are an expert in estate planning. Ask them how many trusts they prepared that week or how many clients they met with for estate planning purposes that week, that month, or in a year. If they can’t tell you they have had at least three appointments each week for estate planning work, they are not a specialist.
If you’re comfortable with the lawyer, then you want to focus on your problems. You should make a list of the questions you really want answered. This will help ensure you don’t forget to ask them. Also, if you have your records organized, it will assist the attorney in getting a general idea of your financial and family situation. Finally, think about what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. If the lawyer has a clear idea of what your goals are, he or she will be able to make suggestions for the type of estate plan your should consider creating. Your lawyer should help you identify your goals.
Below are a few things your attorney is likely to ask:
- Who do you want your beneficiaries to be?
- Who you want to appoint to serve as the trustee or personal representative of your estate?
- What is your estimated net worth?
- What are your most significant assets?
- If you have minor children, who you would appoint as their guardian?
- Are there any details about your beneficiaries or your estate that may affect the way your estate planning should be handled (such as a family member with special needs)?
Spending time preparing for your initial consultation will not only expedite the estate planning process (which saves you money), it also helps ensure that you end up with an estate plan that accomplishes all of your goals. Remember, this is your life, your family and your estate plan. Don’t let your lawyer make all the decisions – stay active in the process and make sure it is done the way you want it done. Finally, find out how long it will take to be completed. For most estate plans, we can complete the work within 3-4 weeks from start to finish. Any longer and things just don’t get done.
The Astill Law Office has provided high quality legal services for over 30 years. We specialize in wills, trusts, estate planning, and asset protection. If you have any questions about creating a Trust, Will, or estate planning in general, contact The Astill Law Office at 801-438-8698.