Estate planning is more than just how your assets will be distributed after you die. It is to ensure all your wishes and last instructions are followed following your death or if you become mentally incapacitated. Estate planning lawyers create the necessary legal documents in order to enforce your wishes protect your assets and ensure your beneficiaries’ interests are protected. Here are some tips on how you can select a good estate planning lawyer.
An Estate Planning Lawyer Who Focuses on Estate Planning
When it comes to the law, lawyers have different fields of specialization they choose to practice. Not all lawyers can do estate planning just the same as not all lawyers can defend a criminal in open court. If you want to ensure that every aspect of your will is followed and all methods are used to your legal advantage after your death, you will require the services of a lawyer specializing in estate planning. This is especially more true if you have a complicated will or if there is a feud in the family or you want to protect someone from outside influence.
Years on the Job
When it comes to the law, the more experienced the lawyer, the better regardless if the lawyer is a generalist law practitioner or someone that focuses entirely on estate planning. The more experience he has the better he can handle complex situations. The wills, trusts, and powers of attorney including healthcare documents used by many lawyers have been modified and revised to deal with everyday situations that their clients see. This will allow you to have peace of mind that the documents being prepared on your behalf will work when they are needed.
Help for Funding Assets into a Revocable Living Trust
A lot of seasoned estate planning lawyers create foolproof estate plans for their clients but fall short of assisting them with the next vital step: funding the revocable living trust. A well-worded trust is virtually useless once you die, if your assets are not titled in the name of the trust while you were still living. Some law firms hire full time funding assistants or even have funding departments, while others simply provide you with a list of written instructions to follow. Others merely mention the importance of funding but again fall short of providing guidance on how to go about it. It is vital that you seek an attorney that can oversee the entire funding process.
Formal Updating and Maintenance Programs
A lot of estate planning attorneys sees their work as a one-time transaction meaning they draft the documents requested by the client and they’re done. However, there are others who, for a nominal fee, will contact all of their clients on an annual or semi-annual basis in order to inform them of any changes to the law, offer new estate planning methods, inquire about life changes that may require modifications in the client’s documents. They can also check up on the progress of the client’s funding.
Collaborating with a lawyer that offers a formal updating and maintenance program is highly recommended as this can ensure that the plan stays up-to-date and will work as intended when the time comes.
Flat Versus Hourly Fees
For the most part, estate planning lawyers charge a fixed fee for their services, if not, all of their services. This will allow you peace of mind to know that the flat fee is all you need to pay. You will need to understand though what, if any, the flat fee does not cover and when the attorney will charge for an additional flat fee or begin billing you on an hourly rate.
Regardless if the attorney has all of the above requirements but does not feel right in some way then it might be best to simply walk away and find someone that you think you can place your full trust on. Ask yourself if you see yourself working with this attorney? Do you feel at ease around him or her? Does he answer your questions in a professional manner? Even if he does, keep in mind that you will be sharing all of the intimate and personal details of your life with this person. If you do not feel comfortable for some reason, then walk away and find someone who does make you feel at ease about this part of your life.