A competent and caring estate planning attorney can provide more than just estate planning services. They can also offer the peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in good hands. Finding the right professional can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be. Read on for five helpful tips on how to choose an estate planning attorney.
#1 Make a Needs List
Before you begin your search, you must first define what your needs are. Doing so will set some important parameters for your search. When it comes to estate planning, some of the most common needs include:
- Creating an entire estate plan from scratch
- Modifying an existing estate plan
- Taking action on specific terms of a pre-existing plan
- Tax-liability planning and structuring
- Strategic trust fund planning and structuring
Remember to carefully consider every aspect of your life and take into account all of your assets and debts. Once you have a clear understanding of your goals, you can confidently begin your search for an attorney who has the level of experience you need.
#2 Ask Around
Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to find a competent attorney. Although it is not a subject often spoken of, estate planning is something that many have done or are looking to do. Friends and family are excellent sources of information. Their experiences with attorneys will be valuable when narrowing down your choices—especially if their estate needs are similar to yours.
#3 Keep Your Search Local
In today’s technology-driven world, you can connect with professionals around the nation with the click of a button and a simple Google search. However, when it comes to estate planning and most other forms of law, jurisdictional issues prevent you from using professionals outside of your state. The rules and regulations vary widely between states and even localities within states, which means the more local the attorney, the better. A local estate planning attorney will almost always be better equipped to provide the tailored service you need. “Canned” forms online are also risky.
#4 Interview Potential Choices
After narrowing down your list to a manageable set of attorneys, consider interviewing each one as a final filtering process. By this point, the only candidates on your list should be attorneys who come highly recommended, either through word of mouth or by plentiful web reviews. Because the interview will likely be the last stage of your search, it’s wise to create a thorough list of questions. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:
- How many years of estate planning experience do you have?
- What is your range of services?
- What are the costs and methods of billing (e.g., by-the-hour or flat rate)?
- What is the timeframe for your services?
- How will we communicate?
And remember, how you feel during this interview is just as important as the answers to the questions above. Choose someone who makes you feel at ease, comfortable, and confident about the future.
More Tips on Selecting an Attorney
- The worst possible way to hire an attorney is to call the first lawyer you spot on TV.
- Check references. Google reviews can be an excellent place to start.
- Ask who will do the work. Your lawyer may delegate some work to his or her staff. Remember to ask how much of the work the attorney will do to ensure their answer is in line with your expectations.
- Understand the legal fees involved. Always ask questions to make sure you understand your lawyer’s fees for the services they are going to provide so you know what you are agreeing to.
Schedule Your Estate Planning Consultation
Now that you know what to look for when hiring an estate planning attorney, it’s time to begin the interview process! A consultation with an experienced attorney is an excellent place to start. For residents of Central Illinois, our firm offers two office locations in both Nokomis, IL, and Litchfield, IL. If you’re ready to begin your estate planning journey, contact our team today to schedule your one-on-one consultation. We hope to help you soon!