While many people dread the thought of estate planning, as they associate this task with mortality, it’s nevertheless extremely vital to think of the next generation, to make sure they seamlessly inherit your assets, without incident or pushback. Hiring the right estate planning attorney can help ease and expedite this process, and ultimately bring you piece of mind. Asking the following 10 questions can help you make the correct attorney choice:
- It's important to have a solid estate plan in place, to make sure your loved ones receive your assets without issue, after your death.
- There are many questions you should ask prospective estate planning attorneys, before hiring one to craft your estate plan.
- Above all, make sure you hire an attorney who has your financial interests at heart, and who demonstrates a high-touch level of service.
- What is your experience in dealing with trusts and estates? At the very least, it's important to hire a professional with a minimum experience of three years.
- How long will it take you to complete my estate planning project? In most cases, there is no extreme rush, as long as the desired result is achieved and a probate process is ultimately avoided.
- Will you send estate planning documentation for me to review? Even if you’re working with an experienced estate planning attorney, it's essential to review all documentation, because there's always the distinct possibility of a miscommunication.
- Will you be able to assist me with funding my assets into a revocable living trust? Not all estate planning attorneys will help fund a trust. Furthermore, assets must be titled in your name while you’re still alive.
- Do you offer a formal updating and maintenance program? For a small fee, some estate planning attorneys will offer a semi-annual or annual review. This is important, because adjustments to your estate plan may be necessary if you experience a life change or if any tax law changes come about that may potentially impact your estate plan.
- Do you quote a fixed price after reviewing my estate planning project? You hope the answer is “yes", because estate planning attorneys who charge by the hour are likely to present bloated bills that surprise and unnerve you. It's also important to avoid hiring estate planning attorneys who switch from a fixed rate to an hourly rate, after a certain amount of work is complete.
- If you’re not available and I need help with something, will anyone else in your office be familiar enough with my estate to help if I have a question? While most estate planning attorneys will make themselves available, this is still an important question to ask.
- If any unexpected issues arise that are indirectly related to my estate, will you be able to help? The way an attorney responds to this query will help you determine if he or she will offer you comfort when needed. If you achieve an aloof or a chilly reaction, keep looking.
- Is your primary focus on estate planning? Look for a hard “yes.”
- How do I avoid the probate process? You should reject attorneys who advocate a probate approach, because they're likely to be more concerned with lining their pockets, than they are with protecting your financial health. After all, the probate process is both time-consuming and expensive. On the other hand, if an estate planning attorney guides you toward a living trust, he or she may have good intentions, after all.
The Bottom Line
Every situation is different, but asking an estate planning attorney these 10 questions should furnish you with the information you need to choose the best option for you, and ultimately for your spouse and/or children.