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An estate planning attorney should be selected.
After you die, you have to decide what will happen to your personal property and real estate.The law provides a default scheme for disposing of property, but it involves a lengthy court process and tax consequences for your heirs.You can plan things out through wills and trusts.Even if you have a relatively simple estate, hiring an attorney to help you is a good idea because this area of law is impacted by so many variables.It will take a lot of time and effort to find the right legal professional.
Step 1: Decide if you need an attorney.
If you own little real estate or personal property, you can use a document kit to plan your estate on your own.If you own real estate, have retirement or investment accounts, or own your own business, you should seek professional legal assistance.If money is an issue, it may be possible for you to find an attorney who is willing to consult with you on a few limited issues, or to review documents you've drafted yourself.Take the time to gather documents and information about your property and assets, as well as think about who you want to have control over it, if you decide to consult an attorney.The amount and type of assets you have in your will will affect how much an attorney will charge you to draft a plan for your estate.
Step 2: Ask your family and friends to give you recommendations.
Your friends and family are a good place to start because they are familiar with you.If you have a large estate and the person you're asking for a recommendation believes she'll be listed as an heir, be careful.Don't hire an attorney if he is recommended by a close friend or relative.You can use an attorney for other matters.Ask her if she knows a good estate-planning attorney.A good understanding of another attorney's status, experience, and professional reputation is what an attorney would have.
Step 3: You can visit the website of your state or local bar association.
Bar associations have lists of their members, and can often be used to search by specialty or area of practice.State bar associations often offer a lawyer referral service that allows you to meet with a pre-screened attorney after answering a few general questions.If you don't use the referral service, the initial consultation is usually cheaper.
Step 4: There are attorneys who are board certified.
Attorneys can become certified specialists in trusts and estates in some states.The bar association will have information on professional certification if it is available in your state.An attorney must have at least five years of experience practicing law in the area before applying for certification.To become certified, an attorney must submit a number of professional references, take additional courses in that area of law, and pass a lengthy written exam.
Step 5: There are professional groups of estate planners.
Attorneys who are members of professional societies can share their knowledge and experience with other estate planners.The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is an example.If you find an attorney listed as a member, you can be certain that she is an estate planning expert.The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys has a member directory.
Step 6: Attorneys and law firms have websites.
Once you have the names of some attorneys or firms you're interested in pursuing, check out their website to research further into their background and practice.An attorney's website is a marketing tool.You are seeing what he wants you to see, so the things he chooses to emphasize or promote on his website give you a good idea of his interests and professional comfort zone.Look at the information listed by the attorney.If the attorney seems like someone you can relate to, you want to review this for experience and education in estate planning.If you have a beagle, you might notice on an attorney's bio page that he says he breeds beagles.It's important to have common interests since your estate planner will be in your life for a long time.The attorney has a social media presence.She is responsive to her clients and keeps up-to-date on important issues in her practice area if she has active social media accounts that are updated regularly.
Step 7: If you want to interview attorneys, check their bar records.
Go to the bar association's website and look up the attorneys' names.All attorneys you interview should be licensed and in good standing.If any of your prospects have professional complaints on their record, they should be removed from your list.
Step 8: You should have a preliminary consultation phone.
Attorneys will interview you over the phone.Since these take up less time and require less effort than in-person consultations, you can use the phone interviews to narrow your list.
Step 9: To meet in person, make appointments.
You should interview at least three attorneys.Before you schedule the interview, make sure the attorney offers a free or low-cost initial consultation.You don't want to be caught unawares when you receive a large bill.The attorney may have a time limit on the initial consultation.Find out how long a free consultation lasts and how much the attorney will charge you.
Step 10: All documents and information should be gathered.
Before your appointment, the attorney or her assistant may give you a list of information they need to evaluate your case.Before the interview, a thorough attorney may give you questionnaires or goal forms that she expects you to fill out and send back.Make sure you give her enough time to review your answers so your interview is as productive as possible.
Step 11: Ask the attorneys questions about their practice.
Selecting an estate planning attorney who has the appropriate amount of experience and expertise, but also is competent to work with you and handle your estate well into the future is important.Depending on your situation, how much expertise you need depends on it.If you have a fairly simple estate, you may be able to save money if you hire someone who only has a few years of experience.If you have a complex estate, for example you own multiple investment accounts or have real estate in several states or overseas, you need an attorney with specific experience handling estates similar to yours.How much of the attorney's practice consists of estate planning and how much is devoted to other work is something you want to find out.Your best estate planners work in that field only if they excel in a number of different areas.Ask the attorney how much of the work will be done by himself or by someone else.If you have a simple estate, you can save some preparation costs if the bulk of the work is done by a paralegal or an inexperienced attorney under the supervision of someone more experienced.If you have complex property matters, you want to make sure the person handling them has the necessary expertise.
Step 12: Do you know if the attorney has malpractice or professional liability insurance?
Some states don't require attorneys to carry liability insurance, while others do.If the attorney doesn't have liability insurance, you should not hire him to plan your estate.If he or someone working for him makes a mistake, it could be costly and difficult to reverse.Without liability insurance, you and your heirs could lose everything.
Step 13: Ask your attorneys questions about your estate planning options.
The attorney you choose should be comfortable answering your questions and have a strong working understanding of the law.The best attorney will be able to explain the law in a way that you understand.It's pointless to pay for documents if you don't understand what they mean.
Step 14: The attorney's behavior and demeanor should be observed.
If you want to work with this person for the rest of your life, you need to be able to trust them with your private information.The attorney should be interested in what you're saying.She should ask you a lot of questions about your goals and how you want to accomplish them.If the attorney is distracted or attends to other clients or practice matters while talking to you, she may not be focused enough on meeting your needs, or willing to come up with a unique custom solution for you.Whoever you choose will have to ask some very personal and potentially uncomfortable questions so she can understand your needs, your life situation, and your relationships with your family and friends.You need to be comfortable with the attorney.Interviewing an estate planner is almost like going out on a date.You want the attorney you choose to be friendly and warm.The attorney is not the one for you if the relationship feels awkward.
Step 15: You need to understand how the attorney charges and what is included in the fee.
Flat-fee or bundled service packages are offered by some attorneys, while others charge different rates for different services.Flat fee packages are usually centered around the drafting and finalization of documents.The attorney can draft a will for $500.If you need other services in addition to will drafting, the same attorney may be willing to take those as well, but will charge you more.The more consultations and face-to-face meetings are included, the more expensive the service will be.The cost of your estate plans will be influenced by a number of factors, including the experience of the attorney, the type and amount of assets you have, and the complexity of tax planning.Attorneys should be able to explain how costs are assessed and how rates are computed.An estate-planning attorney should have a good idea of how much work will be involved after the initial consultation.She needs to have that initial consultation first so she understands the various aspects of your case at least on a basic level.
Step 16: Take notes during and after the interview.
Don't think you'll be considered rude if you take notes during the interview because attorneys are used to people writing while they're talking.While the experience is fresh in your memory, write down your general impressions and feelings after the interview.
Step 17: The attorney can give you references.
Attorneys have a duty of confidentiality to all of their clients, even former ones.Estate-planning attorneys often have former clients provide a reference, which they publish on their website or make available to potential clients on request.
Step 18: Take the attorneys you interviewed and compare them.
If necessary, make a list of pros and cons for each so you can figure out which would be the best for you.Cost should not be your primary concern.It's worth the investment to make sure the distribution of everything you've earned is done correctly.
Step 19: If you have more questions, follow up with your prospects.
You may realize that you didn't get all the information you needed at the interview as you prepare to make your final decision.If that is the case, you should call or email with follow-up questions so you can make an informed decision.
Step 20: If you want to interview other attorneys, consider it.
If none of the prospects you interviewed feels like the right choice, you might want to go back to your long list and interview a few more attorneys.
Step 21: Allow your prospects to know your decision as soon as possible.
Let the attorney know if you've made your decision one way or the other.If there are attorneys you've interviewed who you don't want to hire, go ahead and let them know.
Step 22: The final details of the representation should be obtained in writing.
Make sure you know what your attorney will do for you, how long it will take, and what documents she will draft before you pay her.You should be aware of the extra fees that may come up while the attorney is working for you.If an issue pops up that needs to be dealt with but is outside the initial scope of the attorney's representation, make sure there is a system in place for notifying you in advance.If you don't have children, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to find out what will happen if you die before your son is 18.
Step 23: Pay the retainer or other fee if you sign the agreement.
Both you and your attorney should sign the agreement.She will expect you to pay when the agreement is signed.If a retainer is required, make sure you know how much will be returned to you if you abandon your plan or go with someone else.
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