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How to Select an Estate Planning Attorney

Your estate planning attorney will help you create a legal plan that protects your assets, minimizes tax costs, and ensures that your final wishes are carried out. It is important to select an attorney who specializes in estate planning and has experience with the particular state laws that apply to your situation. Your attorney should be able to help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of different estate planning tools, such as trusts, wills, and life insurance policies. Your attorney should also be able to help you address long-term care issues by drawing up healthcare and financial power of attorneys, living wills, and other necessary documents.

When looking for an estate planning attorney, it is best to start with a referral from a trusted source. You can ask family members and friends for recommendations, and you can also consult with financial professionals with whom you have a relationship. Some financial professionals, such as bankers and insurance agents, may have relationships with estate planning attorneys they work with regularly.

Once you have a list of potential estate planning attorneys, it is a good idea to interview them to determine if they are a good fit for your needs and personal style. Ask each candidate a series of questions about their background, experience, and fee structure. When meeting with the attorney, pay attention to how comfortable you feel, how well they listen to your concerns, and whether or not they communicate clearly and effectively.

You should also find out whether the attorney has any additional qualifications or certifications that may be relevant to your case. For example, if you have significant property or investment holdings, it is important that your attorney has knowledge of complex property law and the ability to prepare a comprehensive estate plan that includes transfer on death deeds and trusts. If you have minor children, it is important that your attorney is familiar with special child-related estate planning issues.

Finally, you should find out if the attorney charges an hourly fee or a flat rate for their services. An hourly fee is typically based on the complexity of your estate, which will be determined during an initial consultation with the attorney.

For example, if you are a twice-married business owner with children from both marriages, your estate will be more complex than that of a widow with adult children from a single marriage. In addition, the complexity of your estate will be influenced by the types and value of your assets.

Once you have selected an estate planning attorney, it is important to periodically review your documents to reflect any significant changes in your family composition or finances. For instance, the death of a spouse or the birth of a grandchild will likely require an amendment to your estate plan. You should also review your documents after major life events, such as divorces or marriages, and following a substantial change in health status. During your periodic reviews, your attorney will be able to make any necessary revisions to your documents.