So you have finally decided to get your estate planning affairs in order. Here are a few questions you should ask the attorney to make sure that he or she is the right person to help get your affairs in order.
1. Is Estate Planning Your Primary Focus?
You wouldn't be comfortable with your chiropractor performing brain surgery, would you? Of course not! Unfortunately, the practice of law is much different than the medical field. Attorneys are legally allowed to assist in almost any legal issue you can imagine.
However, that doesn't mean it is a good idea to hire a general attorney. You want to make sure you work with an attorney whose primary focus is estate planning. That way, your attorney will be able to help advise you with the latest estate and tax planning strategies. You will also rest assured knowing that a specialist is up to date on the latest laws and best practices.
2. Are You Experienced?
This question should be coupled with the first one in order to decide how skilled you believe the attorney is. An attorney who has 30 years of experience, but only does estate planning as 10% of is practice is MUCH different than someone who has done nothing but estate planning for the same amount of time. Generally speaking, an attorney who has a minimum of 5 years of experience focusing on a specific field should be rather skilled. The more situations the attorney has been exposed to, the more knowledge the attorney has to assist you with your own situation.
There is a flip side to this. Sometimes, if an attorney has been out of law school for too long, their knowledge may not be up to date. 30 years ago, most law schools did not each teach attorneys about trusts at all! If your gut tells you someone is too "set in their ways" and starts to get frustrated when you ask why they are recommending something to you, it might be time to look elsewhere. Beware of the phrase "this is how we have done it for many, many years".
3. Do You Help With Trust Funding?
The term "funding" a trust refers to coordinating your assets with your new revocable trust. It is a vital step to making sure your trust works the way you intend it to. However, many attorneys do not help with this process (or they may even charge an extra fee!). This is one of the most complicated parts of the legal process, and your attorney should not hang you out to dry and leave this key part of the legal work for you to do yourself. Isn't that why you are hiring a lawyer to begin with?
4. Fee Structure
We're not talking about price. With any professional, you get what you pay for. If you are deciding on your attorney based on the cheapest price, then you should not expect to receive the most attention, the best documents, and sound legal advice to help you make the best decisions.
However, it is important to learn how an attorney bills his or her clients. Many attorneys bill per hour. This can leave you uncertain as to what the final costs will be. It will also discourage you from asking questions or taking the time that you need to feel comfortable with your decisions. Clients tend to "rush" through the process when they are on the clock.
Look for an attorney that charges a flat fee for their legal services. That way there will be no surprises, and you will know exactly what you are paying for the attorney's work. This also gives you the confidence to be able to ask questions and make adjustments based on your attorney's advice, without the pressure of knowing that each minute you talk to the attorney is raising your bill.
If you or someone you know are ready to begin searching for an estate planning attorney, contact The Rosenbauer Law Office, LLC today at 513-463-6789 today for a complimentary consultation.