Proper estate planning ensures that one’s assets are protected and distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. In order to navigate the intricacies of estate planning effectively, it is often essential to enlist a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney. Choosing the right attorney can make all the difference in achieving one’s goals and minimizing the possibility of legal issues and family conflicts.
Defining one’s goals and specific needs should be the first step. Estate planning entails a broad range of issues, from drafting legal documents to addressing tax concerns, incapacity, and specific family problems. Understanding one’s own objectives and concerns, such as types of assets, specific wishes, and private circumstances, helps to find an attorney with the right expertise.
Starting the search with seeking recommendations from friends, family members, or colleagues who have gone through the estate planning process offers the valuable opportunity to gain insight into the attorney’s expertise, knowledge, communication skills, and overall fit. Personal referrals are often a trustworthy resource.
Reviewing the opinions and endorsements available online also offers an important insight into the attorney’s reputation. Previous clients often offer feedback online regarding their experience with the attorney, the attorney’s availability, responsiveness, and timeliness of their communication and work.
Additionally, the attorney’s credentials can be researched online. Quick internet research allows one to verify that the attorney is licensed to practice law in the state, is in good standing with the State Bar, and is current on their continuing education and therefore likely up-to-date with the current laws.
Similarly, as in the other areas of life, finding a professional who focuses on the issues at hand is crucial. While it is not uncommon for a general practitioner of law to handle estate planning, choosing an attorney who focuses on estate planning, trusts, wills, and related areas, may come with a deeper understanding of the legal intricacies involved in this area of law. Additionally, attorneys who have been practicing for several years are more likely to have encountered a wider range of issues and scenarios.
Once a potential attorney is selected, an in-person consultation should be scheduled to meet the attorney and discuss their processes and methods. The initial consultation is an excellent opportunity to determine whether one is comfortable with the chosen attorney, their communication style, their fee structure, and their approach to any future changes and amendments. This is a chance to ask questions and seek clarification regarding any doubts or concerns.
The attorney’s fees should be discussed upfront to avoid any misunderstanding or miscommunication. Estate planning attorneys typically charge either hourly rates or a flat fee for their services, but the fee structure should be transparent and provide a clear estimate of the costs involved.
Ultimately, selecting the right estate planning attorney is a personal choice. The interaction should feel professional, but comfortable. One should feel confident to trust their attorney with their personal and sensitive information and the attorney should possess the necessary expertise, experience, and personal characteristics to guide their client through this important estate planning process with care and diligence.
Natalia Vander Laan is a Minden attorney.