An estate plan is one of the most important legal documents you will create in your lifetime. Estate planning is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are single, married, divorced, remarried, have kids, adopted kids, or don’t have any kids. An estate plan outlines in detail your wishes in various areas of your life, including how you are to be cared for if you become incapacitated, where your assets are to go upon your death, and who will be named guardians of your minor children.
Failing to create an estate plan is a recipe for disaster. That’s why the team at Apple Payne Law has built this list for finding an estate planning lawyer. You shouldn’t necessarily work with the first lawyer you find online. It’s important to obtain recommendations from family members & read reviews. An estate plan is too important to put in just anyone’s hands.
One of the most effective ways to find an estate planning lawyer is to ask for a personal referral. Talk to your family members and friends who have already created their estate plan. Find out who they used. Ask them the following questions:
A personal recommendation speaks volumes about the ability of the attorney to provide superior service to his or her clients.
You more than likely work with an accountant and a financial planner. Both of these specialists should have contacts in the legal field, especially in the estate planning practice area. Ask each one for a few recommendations. Estate planning attorneys work with accountants and financial planners all the time. Find one who has a strong working relationship with your specialists or ones they recommend working with even if they haven’t worked with them in a while.
Have you worked with an attorney in the personal injury, real estate, or business law practice areas? If so, there’s nothing wrong with asking one of these attorneys for a referral to an estate planning attorney. They will undoubtedly have connections they can refer to you, some of whom might work in their firm.
It might not be a bad idea to explore your state or local bar association when looking for an estate planning lawyer. There might even be a referral service set up with the association. Either way, the bar association will be able to provide you with a directory of all registered and licensed estate planning attorneys in your area.
Again, it’s important that you take advantage of the consultation, which almost always is free. You should come prepared with a list of questions. Ask the attorney(s) the same set of questions so you can compare the answers. The list of questions should include the following:
Also, see the next section about information you should provide at the consult!
Now it’s time to move forward with the attorney you selected to help you build an estate plan. Contact the chosen attorney’s office immediately to move forward. When you visit with the attorney, be sure you have the following with you:
It is important that you are able to bring as much of the above information as possible to your first estate planning meeting with the lawyer you have chosen. The following documents, while not required at the initial consult, are very helpful in fully preparing your estate plan if they apply as well:
Collect all of these documents and phone numbers ahead of time. Your lawyer will need them for the estate plan and might even have to contact some of these people to ask questions or inform them of the positions they have been selected to hold based on your decisions.
Estate planning is not something that should be taken lightly. If you do not have an estate plan in place, now is the time to create one. Having a power of attorney, executor, trustee, and guardian in place for the inevitable or for if you become incapacitated will make the situation much easier on your family. Discuss your future with your family honestly. Let them know why they were chosen for a specific position and express your wishes to them before they hear them at the reading of your will.