Hiring an estate planning attorney is a process you need to approach carefully. A good estate planning lawyer is one who can develop a plan that meets your needs, and help you address the problems you are currently facing. Even general practice lawyers who occasionally write a will for someone or who know little about estate planning aren’t really the kind of lawyer you want. Before selecting your lawyer, think of questions you want to ask. Here’s a quick list to help you get started.
Question 1. What is your background?
Needless to say, a good estate planning lawyer is one who attended a reputable law school and his licensed to practice law in your state. But beyond that, you want to ask your attorney about his or her particular background. Did your lawyer always practice in estate planning? What did she do before becoming an attorney? Was there anything that led your attorney to want to become an estate planning or elder law lawyer? All these questions can tell you exactly why your attorney is there and what she might bring to the table to help you in your state planning efforts.
Question 2. How much of your practice is estate planning?
A lot of attorneys say they are estate planning lawyers, but that doesn’t mean they spend a lot of time doing it. In general, you want an attorney who spends the majority of her time focused on estate planning issues.
Having said that, there are many individual issues and topics associated with the estate planning. For example, some estate planning lawyers specialize in elder law, while others might focus on trusts, retirement planning, or even more specialized areas. Knowing what attorneys do and, more importantly, what they spend most of their time doing will give you a good idea of their expertise.
Question 3. Will you tell me when something changes?
Like all other areas of the law, estate planning is an area that can change rapidly. Your plan needs to be as up-to-date as possible, meaning you might have to make changes if there are significant changes in the law. You definitely want to know if your estate planning attorney will keep you up to date of these changes and send you notifications if and when they occur.
Question 4. What do you expect of me?
Estate planning lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no single way they all do business. Some will expect you to do most of your work with their staff, while others might only meet with you in person a few times. There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to this type of interaction, but you want to be clear about what your lawyer expects and, conversely, what you can expect during the process of representation.