What Should I Ask an Estate Planning Attorney During an Initial Consultation?

One of the most important steps you take in regard to financial and associated matters is estate planning. Like many people, you may elect to retain the services of an estate planning attorney to assist you with your own issues, objectives, and goals. The first step in hiring an estate planning lawyer is to schedule what is known as an initial consultation. There are some specific questions that you should consider asking an estate planning lawyer during this preliminary appointment.

Questions About Attorney’s Specific Background in Estate Planning

You definitely will want to ask direct questions that flesh out an attorney’s specific background in estate planning. Even among the legal profession generally, estate and probate law is considered to be one of the most challenging areas in which to practice. Thus, you want to make certain that when you retain a lawyer for estate planning purposes, you select an attorney that has a strong background and a good amount of experience in this area of the law.

As a side note, you also need to understand that the attributes of an attorney that handles probate cases in court are different from a lawyer that provides estate planning representation to clients. Thus, you need to clarify that a lawyer is skilled and experienced in estate planning specifically and not probate representation more broadly.

What Services Can Attorney Provide?

On a related note, you also need to thoroughly question a lawyer about the range of estate planning services a particular attorney is able to provide. In this day and age, there are estate and probate lawyers that focus on specific areas of estate planning. For example, there are lawyers that specialize in establishing trusts for their clients, making that the primary focus of their professional lives.

Inquire as to whether a lawyer will assist you on an ongoing basis in keeping abreast of trends and opportunities that might benefit your overall estate planning efforts. A lawyer must keep abreast of changes in the law that potentially can impact clients in which he or she has an ongoing relationship. The key is to understand how your future relationship with an attorney will be defined and whether or not legal counsel will assist you in keeping abreast of changes that might impact your estate planning or allow for an improvement of what you initially created. See if a lawyer will agree to an annual estate planning review with you.

How Does an Estate Lawyer Charge Fees?

You definitely want to thoroughly question a prospective estate planning attorney about fees for services. The reality is that the area in which attorneys and clients most often end up in disputes is over legal fees. You need to understand the total amount you will be charged for services as well as when and how fees will be paid to legal counsel.

You definitely will want to get a written contract for services with an estate planning lawyer. The contract should specifically set forth the agreed fee arrangement.

What Is the Timeframe for Completing Your Work?

Expectations are important when engaging legal representation – both for you and your attorney. With this in mind, ask questions about the timeframe the attorney will work under to complete your estate planning work. Ask about milestones along the way when certain aspects of an overall estate planning endeavor will be completed.

Who Is You Principle Contact Person in the Firm?

Verify who your principal contact will be at the firm and other people you can reach out to for certain issues, matters, or questions. You do not need to connect directly with your estate planning lawyer every time you have a question. Oftentimes, an attorney has a legal assistant or a paralegal who is adept at providing you information you require as a lawyer works on your estate planning.

Request References From Lawyer

When meeting with a prospective estate planning lawyer, request references. References can include both former clients or colleagues. Oftentimes a combination of references from both groups can be most helpful. When you obtain references from an estate planning attorney you are considering hiring, make sure you contact these individuals. In a good many instances, people request references from lawyers but never follow through and actually seek information from them.

Online review sites might be able to provide you some insights about particular attorneys. However, you need to keep in mind that sometimes these reviews are posted by people bearing some sort of unfair grudge on the one hand or who are somehow personally connected to a particular lawyer on the other.

In addition to getting references from a prospective estate planning lawyer, you can also obtain recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues who’ve used the services of estate planning attorneys in the past. This can be a good way of building an initial list of prospective estate planning lawyers.