Selecting your estate lawyers is an important decision. Not only are you trusting this professional to create a plan that supports your wishes, you are also sharing some of the most confidential details of your life with him or her. Here are some things to consider when selecting an attorney Special Needs Trusts.
Selecting Estate Lawyers
Choose an attorney who is experienced in your particular needs. Not all estate lawyers are experts in every aspect of estate law, but they should have a basic understanding of how laws covering one issue may affect others.
Look for specialty designations on the issue you need help with and ask what percentage of their practice is devoted to this subject. Estate planning is a constantly growing field and unscrupulous attorneys might try to capitalize on that by claiming to be experts in wills, trusts and plans when in fact they are not. A specialty designation can give you some measure of comfort that the attorney is knowledgeable on the subject.
Research attorneys before contacting them. Review their websites for educational background, practice specialties and experience. Is the lawyer a member of any local, state or national associations? Make sure to search specialty associations related to your need, such as the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, and see if your attorney is a member.
Search for articles the lawyer or firm may have written and take note of any examples of community involvement they may have participated in or supported. Reach out to friends, neighbors and colleagues to get recommendations.
Finally, although it may sound far-fetched to think this isn’t the case, always contact the state bar association to make sure the lawyer is a member in good standing.
There are several things to consider besides experience when choosing estate lawyers. Don’t forget the other staff at the law firm. You are likely to have a lot of contact with them. You want staff that is courteous and professional and responds to you in a timely manner.
Look for a local lawyer. Local attorneys are certain to know the state law better than a lawyer who is out of state, not to mention it is more convenient for you to visit the office.
Ask for references. Ideally you will be able to speak to people who have used the lawyer’s services in the past so you can get an idea of his or her client service and communication with clients.
Always ask about fees, payment terms and the cost of the initial consultation. Estate planning is very time-consuming and complex. It is not at all uncommon for these lawyers to charge for the initial consultation. Find out if you will be charged a flat-fee or an hourly rate to have the plan drawn up, then make sure you understand what is included in the fee and ask for a written fee agreement.
Throughout all of your research, don’t discount your gut feelings. You’re looking for a lawyer who has the expertise you need, but you should also choose one with whom you feel comfortable. He or she should listen to your needs, concerns and values and be interested in your situation. They should speak to you in terms you understand. Estate lawyers will be delving deep into your life and asking questions about your finances and relationships with friends and family. You want your attorney to be someone you trust and feel you can be open and honest with.