How to Find an Estate Planning Attorney

Hand holding file folder labeled "estate plan"
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Searching for a lawyer who can help you put together a good estate plan may seem like a daunting task. But with a little help, you should be able to find several qualified lawyers from which to choose.

Here's a list of resources for locating an estate planning attorney in your area.

Ask Your Financial Advisor for a Referral

If you have a financial advisor, they should be a great source of information for you. They might know where else to look to find a qualified planning attorney in your area.

Many advisors view estate planning as an essential part of their clients' overall financial goals. These advisors have one or more estate lawyers that they'll refer their clients to depending on their individual needs.

You might consider asking your estate planning candidates whether they do periodic reviews, how often they do them and if there are any extra charges for them.

If your advisor hasn't approached the subject of estate planning with you, be sure to bring it up with your advisor. Ask your advisor who did their estate plan—the answer may be just who you're looking for.

Ask Your Accountant

Many estate lawyers turn to accountants for help with estate, trust and income tax issues. Thus, it's likely your accountant can recommend one or more estate planning attorneys in your area to put together your estate plan.

Likewise, many accountants seek out estate planning lawyers for their clients since accountants have direct access to their clients' financial information and family situations. More often than not, these clients could use an estate plan. Ask your accountant who did their estate plan and see if they recommend them.

Consult Other Attorneys

Chances are, a lawyer you've worked with in setting up your business, buying your home or reviewing a contract will know one or more qualified estate planning attorneys in your area. And lawyers are always happy to refer their clients to other lawyers who don't practice in their area of expertise because it promotes referrals back the other way.

When talking to attorneys to find out which will work for you, be sure to ask who you can talk to you in the absence of your primary estate planner.

Besides this, ask your lawyer who did their estate plan since many non-estate lawyers won't even attempt to create theirs (the saying, "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client" certainly holds in estate planning). It's likely your lawyer will have an estate plan that was drafted by another local lawyer who specializes in estate planning

Check Bar Directories and Advertisements

Each state has a bar association, and lawyers located in cities or counties may also have a bar association. Many of these associations maintain a list of their members and their practice areas, and some even offer certified referral services to the public. Check your local directory online for legal assistance in your area. 

Many lawyers, including estate lawyers, advertise through various means such as print, radio, TV and the internet. All states regulate attorney advertising, so only ads that pass the state bar association's strict scrutiny are allowed. This ensures that the attorney isn't making false claims or promising unattainable results.

Contact Your Local Probate Court

This may not work for you if you live in a large city, but in smaller communities, the court clerks know all of the local attorneys and which ones are easy to work with—they also know which ones the judges prefer. Lawyers practicing in a small town generally have a good working relationship with the court clerks and judges.

Key Takeaways

  • Ask your financial planner if they know any estate planning attorneys.
  • See if your accountant knows any attorneys that specialize in estate planning.
  • Call local attorney offices and ask if they know of any estate planning specialists.
  • Your state and local bar associations should have information on estate law practitioners.
  • Local TV, radio and law offices usually have advertisements that can help you locate a lawyer.
  • Local probate courts in smaller towns are often familiar with the local estate planning lawyers.