Today, I want to talk about an important subject that many families do not consider.
It is the question …
What Should You Look For in an Estate Planning Attorney?
However, first, where should you look for an estate planning attorney?
There are a number of places to look for to find the right attorney for your family such as:
- Ask a Friend, Family, Neighbor or Church Member;
- Call Your Local Bar Association for a Referral;
- Call Your Financial Advisor and/or CPA and Ask for a Referral;
- Search for a Local Estate Planning Attorney on Google;
- Attend a Local Estate Planning Seminar or Workshop.
What attributes should you look for in an estate planning attorney?
Here are a few that we believe are important in choosing the best estate planning attorney for you and your family:
- Practices Exclusively in the Area of Estate Planning and Estate Administration;
- Serves Clients for a Fixed, Reasonable Cost;
- Works With a Team of Additional Estate Planning Attorneys;
- Is a Member of National Organizations of Estate Planning Attorneys and Has Been Rewarded by Multiple Organizations For Their Work in the Field of Estate Planning, Estate Settlement and Elder Law;
- The Attorney and/or Law Firm Guarantees Professional and Courteous Service;
- Explains Things in an Easy-to-Understand Format;
- Referred by Several Satisfied Former and Existing Clients;
- The Attorney Regularly Speaks and Writes About Important Estate Planning Topics.
The Attorney Has an Easily Explainable Process
What I mean by this, is that the attorney should be able to explain to you in easy to understand terms their process that they take a client, such as you, through from start to finish.
For instance, we have a unique seven step process that our clients will go through from start to finish.
Goal Setting and Planning Meeting. This is where we take our clients through a detailed meeting that usually lasts one and half to two hours in length. During this meeting we discuss important morals and values they want passed on to their children. We will discuss the ultimate goal of their estate planning. We will discuss the issue of disability, financial and healthcare decisions, and how they wish to pass on their assets, and in what manner. Finally, we conclude this meeting with a variety of different options to help the client fulfill their goals.
We begin the process of drafting the necessary legal documents to implement the selected planning strategy. Upon completion, full and complete drafts of the legal documents and a plan summary letter is sent to the client for their review.
Draft Review and Implementation Meeting. This is the second meeting we hold in our office. During this meeting we go through your entire plan from start to finish. During this meeting, of particular importance, is answering all of your questions after your review. We also go through the process of what will happen after you sign your legal documents and how the plan will be implemented, and how the plan will work when it is time for the administration of your estate.
Plan Implementation and Signing Meeting. This is the third meeting we will hold in our office. During this meeting, we have formalized all of your estate legal documents into finished and final form. We will go through each legal document one-by-one and obtain your notarized signature. Once this part is completed, we will scan all of your legal documents onto our secure server, so we always have a copy. At this point, you will leave our office with your finalized estate legal documents, asset inventory, and plan summary letters in an organized binder that we call the “Estate and Legacy Portfolio.”
Funding Process. This step of the process we believe to be the most important, yet it is a part of the process that is the most overlooked. During this part of the process we go through all of your financial accounts, make sure they are titled correctly in accordance with your estate plan, and make sure your beneficiary designations are properly completed in accordance with your estate plan. For instance, your investment brokerage accounts and bank accounts may need to be titled in the name of your trust and your retirement accounts may need to have the contingent (or secondary) beneficiary changed to a trust or a retirement plan trust. Our team makes sure that this process is completed so that your plan works the way it is supposed to when it is supposed to.
One and Three-Year Review. Just as important as setting up your estate and legacy plan is making sure your plan is up to date. The only thing worse than having no plan at all is having an outdated plan. For instance, the laws regarding powers of attorney went through a change a few years ago. For this reason, we will hold one year and three-year review meetings in our office to review your existing plan, review any changes to your family circumstances, and recommend any changes (if any).
Estate Administration Meeting. As a courtesy to our clients, we will hold a complimentary estate administration meeting with your loved ones following your death. There is no charge for this meeting and it is part of our service. During this meeting, we will review the legal documents, the assets, and the final bills. At this point, with your loved ones, we will discuss the legal process (if there is any) that will proceed forward from here, and should they wish, we will begin the necessary legal work to administer your estate in the manner that you planned for all those many years ago.
If the attorney or law firm cannot discuss with you their estate planning process that alleviates all of your questions and concerns, this may not be the law firm or attorney you would want to do business with.
You Get What You Pay For. If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Probably Is.
This part of your guide has to do with legal fees. Throughout my experience as an estate planning attorney, I have heard of attorneys charging all sorts of different types of legal fees. I have seen a living trust-based estate plan provided by attorneys for anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000. In addition, I have seen last will and testament-based estate plans provided by attorneys from anywhere between $250 to $2,500.
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. If the price is so low in exchange to value of what you are receiving, and you are questioning it is too good to be true … well, it probably is.
I would say an average to good estate planning attorney will work with between 150 to 250 families every year. If the attorney is charging $1,000 for a living trust-based estate plan and $250 for a last will and testament-based estate plan, it is most likely you are just paying for legal documents and not customized legal representation to your specific situation.
Always remember, every law firm may not be a right fit for you and your family. It is important that you are comfortable with the attorney and the law firm that you are entrusting with protecting you and your family and the assets that you spent a lifetime to accumulate.
You spent a lifetime accumulating your assets, why not spend a few weeks with us putting a plan in place to protect your assets and your cherished loved ones.
Give us a call at (615) 472-2482 or CLICK HERE to schedule your estate planning and asset protection legal strategy!