It’s rare for someone to come along that is genuinely excited about procuring an estate plan, and rightfully so. Planning one’s estate forces them to look into the future, specifically their future demise.
While that may seem grim, it’s a reality. If you want to pass on your property to specific beneficiaries, avoid probate, assign guardianship for a child, determine an heir to your estate, preserve your wealth for the next generation or better manage your estate’s assets while you’re alive, an estate plan is necessary.
An estate lawyer worth their weight will know the estate process in and out no matter if your situation calls for a will, living trust, revocable or irrevocable trust. A valuable attorney can explain the details and tailor a plan unique to your estate situation.
To make sure the attorney is up to the task, propose to him the following four questions.
1. Are you knowledgeable in all areas of estate planning (wills, trusts, life insurance)?
If your estate situation involves elements that require differing documents, the attorney should be able to speak to the nuances of each and determine which will provide you the most peace of mind.
2. Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?
Some attorneys charge a flat fee for all estate work. Others will charge by the hour or a mixture of both, depending on the task. If charging a flat fee and by the hour, the attorney would charge a flat fee for the drafting of the document and an hourly fee for any performed research.
3. Do you address other life issues?
These tasks could include the drawing up of a living trust, power of attorney or the naming of a healthcare directive. Your estate lawyer doesn’t need to draw up every estate document. There are many aspects to an estate plan. While your attorney may have a diverse skill set in the many legal facets of estate planning, like the drafting and execution of documents, probate and estate administration or probate litigation, they are likely not a tax expert or financial advisor.
Be sure to seek out other field experts to ensure all areas of your plan are set to your benefit. Your estate plan may be able to provide references.
4. Will I be able to review all estate planning documents before finalization?
The finalizing of documents without a review is highly uncommon. Feel free to bring this up to your estate lawyer to ensure that you can review the documents and address any concerns about what elements can and cannot be changed.