Top 5 Questions for Your Estate Planning Attorney
Would you be comfortable having your family practice doctor perform heart surgery, or your pediatrician to treat cancer? No, you’d hire a specialist. So, why would you hire a general practice attorney instead of one who focuses all his or her knowledge and expertise in a specific area of law? Like medicine, the law has become hyper-focused. Gone are the days of general practice lawyers who handled business contracts, divorce, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and yes, estate planning.
Today, most attorneys concentrate on one or two main areas of practice.
The law is too complicated for lawyers to be experts in all areas. Consequently, attorneys focus exclusively in areas including Immigration, Bankruptcy, Family Law, Corporate Law, Patent & Copyright, Intellectual Property, Personal Injury, and of course – Estate Planning & Elder Law.
Estate planning is an extremely complex area of law.
One wrong word or one missing signature can change the entire intent of your will or trust. Signing incorrectly can invalidate the document. Online do-it-yourself estate planning commercials are advertised heavily and designed to make consumers believe these one-size-fits-all documents are sufficient. But cleaning up messes caused by these documents can be expensive, time-consuming, and extremely stressful. Online providers are not held to the same standards as attorneys. In fact, Texas law states that if all they are doing is providing documents, they’re not considered to be “practicing law,” they don’t answer to the State Bar of Texas, and they can’t be held liable if they give you a wrong or bad document, or if the document isn’t properly filled out and signed. Bottom line: without an expert estate lawyer, the buyer must beware.
When meeting with an Estate Planning attorney, be sure to ask these 5 questions:
1. What is your experience in dealing with Wills, Trusts, and Estates? You want a firm that has practiced exclusively in the areas of Estate Planning and Elder Law, and who has years of experience in these specific areas. Ask for References and look for testimonials and Google reviews.
2. How do we avoid the probate process? Trusts are more than just planning tools for the rich.
3. Do you provide a fixed price quote after reviewing my estate planning project? Flat fee pricing gives you certainty rather than the hourly-fee attorney who can hit you with an unexpected bill.
4. If I need help and you’re unavailable, will anyone else in your office be familiar enough with my estate to help? You want to work with a law firm who takes a total team approach to serve their clients.
5. Do you offer formal updating and maintenance programs? Ongoing review and updates to any plan are an absolute necessity. The one constant in life is change, so keeping up with life and law changes is an essential part of maintaining the estate and family protection plan you need.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
What you perceive as a simple situation is more than likely quite complicated; therefore, it’s imperative to hire an experienced professional who knows all possible issues that might arise in your family and financial situation. If I asked you “What’s the most important thing in your life,” how would you answer? Would you say, “It’s my money, my assets, my stuff”? No, you’d say, “It’s my family!”. You’ve spent your entire life taking care of and loving your family, so why wouldn’t you consult an expert to craft an ideal estate and family protection plan, customized for you and the people you love most?
The estate planning attorney or law firm you choose should be an expert in that field, in order to help you create an estate plan that is custom-tailored to your exact situation and that will work just as you intend. So, ask questions about their experience so you can ensure you have the best firm putting together the best plan possible.
Author: Fred Haiman