Selecting the right estate planning attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure your estate plan fully meets your goals. The lawyer you choose will have a major impact on shaping your estate planning arrangements and documents. Devoting time to finding the ideal legal counsel puts you on solid footing.
With so many lawyers to choose from, the search process can feel overwhelming at first. However, following a few key tips can make it easier to identify and select the perfect estate planning lawyer for your needs.
Clearly Define Your Needs
Before you start searching for an attorney, take time to clearly define your estate planning needs and objectives. Are you looking to draft basic wills and power of attorney documents? Or do you need more complex planning involving trusts, business succession, and tax minimization? Make a list of everything you want to accomplish through estate planning. This gives you criteria to evaluate lawyers against.
Ask for Referrals
Speaking with friends, family, financial advisors, and other professionals in your network is one of the best ways to find estate planning lawyers. Ask them for recommendations of attorneys they have used personally or heard good things about. Get referrals from people you trust who understand your needs and preferences.
Research Your Shortlist
Once you have a short list of promising attorneys to interview, take time to thoroughly research them online. Visit their firm websites and social media pages. Read reviews from former clients. This gives you valuable insights into attorneys’ areas of expertise, case experiences, communication styles, fees, and more to narrow your search.
Be sure any lawyer you consider is properly credentialed and in good professional standing. confirm they are licensed in your state. Make sure no ethics complaints or disciplinary issues have been filed against them. Reputable estate planning attorneys, like those at Hammond Law Group, will belong to professional legal organizations like the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys or the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Look for Relevant Experience
Choose a lawyer with substantial experience drafting estate plans similar to what you need. Ask about the types of estate planning arrangements they commonly develop for clients. The ideal attorney routinely handles planning tasks identical to yours. For instance, if you own a business or have a disabled child, choose a lawyer with expertise in those areas. Relevant experience is vital.
Understand Their Approach
Lawyers have different philosophies and approaches to estate planning. Would you prefer an attorney who presents you with recommendations or one who offers multiple options? Look for someone who explains things in simple terms and makes you feel comfortable asking questions. Make sure their planning approach suits your needs and personality.
Check for Specialization
While each estate planning attorney has basic experience with wills, trusts, etc., some attorneys specialize in particular niches. If your situation involves estate tax planning, special needs planning, or business succession, selecting a lawyer focused on that niche can be beneficial. Specialized expertise may better serve your particular needs.
Meet for a Consultation
Never hire an estate planning attorney without meeting them in person for a consultation first. This lets you evaluate their professionalism, responsiveness, communication skills, and expertise. Be sure you clearly understand all aspects of their services and fee structure. Pay attention to your gut feeling after meeting.
Choose a lawyer located conveniently close to you if possible. You will need to meet with them multiple times over the course of estate planning. Try to find someone you can easily visit regularly in person to sign documents, provide needed information, and handle other tasks. This makes the process smoother.
Ask About Staff Expertise
You want an attorney with dedicated, knowledgeable support staff like paralegals. These staff members frequently interact with clients on case details and legal processes. Make sure the entire team has strong estate planning expertise.
Discuss Fees Up Front
Lawyer fees vary widely depending on where you live, the attorney’s experience level, and the complexity of your needs. Avoid sticker shock by clearly understanding fee structures during your initial consultation. Some charge flat rates, while others bill hourly. Make sure the attorney you choose offers fair rates you can afford.
Check for Compatibility
You will be working closely with your lawyer over months or years. Make sure you choose someone you feel comfortable with and can easily communicate with. Look for compatibility in working and communication styles to set the relationship up for smooth success.
Trust Your Instincts
Go with your gut feeling after meeting prospective attorneys. If you felt at ease, confident in their expertise, and optimistic after the consultation, those are good signs you have found the right fit. The intangibles matter – choose a lawyer you intrinsically trust.
Selecting the ideal estate planning attorneys does take some diligence and research upfront. But the effort pays dividends through the peace of mind that comes from having expert legal guidance you can count on. With these tips and by consulting the attorneys at Hammond Law Group in Colorado Springs, you can find the perfect lawyer to meet your needs.