5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney
As the population of Lake Norman becomes larger and more diverse, the demand for competent legal services grows as well. There are very few estate planning firms in this area. Estate and business planning are specific areas of law. Before you hire an attorney to do your estate plan, read my 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney.
1. Is the attorney’s primary focus on estate planning?
Estate planning should not be a side gig or an ancillary practice area for the attorney preparing your estate plan. If the attorney’s biography has an entire paragraph about other areas of law and merely one sentence or a bullet point listing “Estate Planning,” beware! Estate planning is a highly specific area of law that changes frequently and requires continuous study to keep up with all the nuances of the practice. An attorney practicing in another area of law does not become an estate planning attorney simply because he/she has a will template on his computer. Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney who focuses specifically in this area of law is likely to save you time and money — and will best protect you and your family.
2. How many years has the attorney been preparing estate plans?
It is important that the attorney you hire has some longevity in this field. Even those who decide to focus their practice in estate planning need time to gain experience under a seasoned attorney before flying solo. In addition, your relationship with your estate planning attorney should be a lifetime relationship. You will want to return to this attorney if you have any changes in your life that warrant changes or updates to your documents. You should engage an attorney who you trust will be there when you return, or if your family needs help upon your incapacity or demise.
3. Does the attorney assist with funding trusts and other post-signing matters?
One of the worst travesties in estate planning is the number of estate plans that are incomplete. Too often attorneys have their clients sign estate planning documents and never take another step towards effectuating that plan. Estate planning is an ongoing matter. After documents are signed your attorney should have a follow up process in place for funding trusts, sending copies of the documents to tax and financial planners and key family members, providing updates in the law and reminding clients when they should review and update their documents based on life events.
4. How does the attorney bill for estate planning services?
Everyone wants to know how much they are going to pay before they agree to buy anything. Attorneys who bill hourly easily escape giving you a price because the meter will run until the work is done. This makes a lot of clients uncomfortable and it can be a deterrent for some. Unless the estate planning is extremely complex, a flat or fixed fee should be established by the attorney before you agree to pay for legal services. You will also want to make sure the flat fee includes the initial consultation, phone calls and emails during the drafting and review process, editing and revising the draft documents prior to execution as well as the final signing meeting and post signing matters.
At Robbins & Bentz we charge flat fees for all of our estate planning documents and that fee includes everything, as well as any minor changes 6 months after you execute your documents. Once you have your estate planning documents done with our firm, we will send you notices of any changes in the law that affect your estate plan and annual reminders to review your documents to see if any updates are necessary.
5. Would you be comfortable working with this attorney for years to come?
Your relationship with your estate planning attorney can last a lifetime. Ask yourself how you feel about working with this attorney for years to come. Are you also comfortable with the office staff? Will this attorney be around for years to come? There are important considerations when hiring an estate planning attorney.
Lake Norman estate planning attorney Christine Robbins has been in practice since 2000. A mother of three children, she offers estate planning services for a range of individuals and families with a focus on affordable planning for parents of children under 18. Christine welcomes inquiries from new clients. Contact Robbins & Bentz to schedule a consultation.