Estate planning is an essential element of financial preparation, but something many of us procrastinates about. The first step is to find a good estate planning attorney who will guide and advise you throughout the process. Having done that, the rest is relatively easy.
Here’s our blog on what to look for in an estate planning attorney.
Find An Estate Planning Attorney I Simple Considerations
Estate planning isn’t just about drafting a will. Maximizing inheritance and minimizing taxes, and problems can also be arranged through things like trusts, power of attorney, health care proxy, etc.
These important matters should not be left to chance and family turmoil, including possible legal issues, should, and can, be limited.
An estate planning attorney is there to help you adapt your plans, in line with shifting laws, to your ever-changing life and circumstances.
Therefore, it’s worth considering a few things before you start your search for an estate planning attorney. Below are some considerations.
Transparent About Their Fees
Price is a key factor in selecting an attorney. Keep in mind what your budget is and find a lawyer whose fees you can afford.
Fees are likely to be dictated by several factors, including:
- Your location
- The experience level of the attorney
- The intricacy of your requirements
Fees will vary but be prepared to pay around $300-$1,200 for simple estate plans, including a will, power of attorney, and medical directives. Complicated plans can cost up to $5,000.
Flat Fee – The main benefit of this service is that you should know how much you’ll be paying so you can stick to your budget. Ensure that the flat fee includes and whether you have a set number of meetings or just a specific period. Get clarity on which specific services and documents you’ll be getting for the cost and how much further updates will be.
Hourly Rate – Hourly rates can range from $250 to $550, on average. Ask upfront how long the services you want will take so you can get an idea of likely expenses.
Although both options have benefits and drawbacks, most estate planning is done on a flat fee basis.
Tip: Free consultations are great, but always get the fee details upfront, ask questions to check you fully understand, and stick to time limits. Determine if the free consultation outweighs any higher costs later.
When you start speaking to potential attorneys, ensure to ask, not just for rates, but how often you need to pay, and how you’ll be charged.
Other fees for specific tasks that you should consider from the outset include court filings, online research, courier fees, document copying, etc.
Tip: It’s possible to save on costs by using a junior lawyer who tends to charge less than senior lawyers. They are always supervised, so unless you have complex needs, this could be a great way to reduce costs.
Specialist in Estate Planning
Not all attorneys will specialize in estate planning, so seek one out in your state whose primary focus is estate law.
An excellent way to start your search is to ask family, friends, or colleagues if they can recommend a good estate attorney. Then find out if the attorney handles estate plans similar to your unique situation.
Accredited estate planning attorneys will be listed on the following sites:
In addition, some sites offer background information for attorneys and peer review ratings.
Working through your whittled down list, inquire about the attorney’s previous experience to see if their work matches your needs.
Find out the precise nature of their involvement, for example, have they only ever dealt with family wills, and not complex business estates. If you have an elderly relative who is ill, you may want to hire an estate planning attorney who has experience in elder law.
If your attorney is inexperienced and not well versed in current laws pertaining to your state, the worst-case scenario could be that your estate plan is deemed invalid by a court.
Tip: Once you narrow down your list, consider asking for references. A reasonable attorney will be happy to put you in touch with satisfied clients.
Build an Ongoing Relationship
Make sure you feel comfortable with your estate planning attorney as you’ll be sharing personal details with them, possibly for many decades to come. Your family will also have to work with them through difficult periods in life, notably bereavement.
Your attorney should be professional, but approachable, and listen to all your needs.
How did you go about finding your estate planning attorney? Let us know in the comments section below.