What to Look for In an Estate Planning Lawyer
An estate planning attorney is a type of lawyer who, through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise clients on getting their affairs in order to prepare for the possibility of mental disability and eventual death.
What an Estate Planning Lawyer Does
Estate planning doesn't begin and end with a last will and testament. An attorney specializing in this field will also draft living trusts, develop a plan to mitigate or avoid estate taxes and work to ensure that your life's savings and assets are safe from your beneficiaries' creditors after your death.
He can prepare powers of attorney and health care directives, arranging for someone to take care of your affairs in the event you should ever become mentally incapacitated. He can help you avoid guardianship or conservatorship issues if you need someone else to look after your affairs.
What Qualities Should You Look For in Your Estate Planning Lawyer
- A general practitioner may not have the experience and specialized knowledge to assist you with your unique family and financial situations. Look for someone who devotes his practice to this area of the law.
- You should feel very comfortable sharing intimate details of your life and your concerns with him so your estate plan doesn't fall short of your expectations and needs.
- Your estate planning attorney should be well versed in and up to date with the laws of your state. Otherwise, your estate plan may ultimately be deemed invalid by the court.
What You Should Expect to Pay for Your Estate Plan
Be prepared to pay somewhat higher legal fees to have your estate plan created, maintained and updated by someone who specializes in this area of practice. You're paying for the attorney's expertise accumulated over years of working with a variety of different clients and taking a multitude of continuing legal education classes. As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for."
Attorneys with limited or no specific experience in estate planning, as well as non-attorneys, are more than willing to sell you revocable living trusts through what the media refers to as "living trust mills." If an attorney's fee seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Your estate might stand to lose far more money in the long run than the cost of paying a qualified attorney now. If estate taxes come due that could have been avoided, or if a contentious probate process drags out after your death, incurring even more court and legal fees, your loved ones may wish that you had simply spent the money to plan ahead instead.
Then, of course, there's peace of mind. How much is it worth to know that when you die, things are going to go exactly as you intended if you have the help of an experienced estate planning attorney? Take the time to find and hire an experienced and respected estate planning attorney in your area. In the long run, you and your family will be glad you did.