Thinking about what will happen to your assets and your family once you’re gone can be difficult to think about. Estate planning forces us to contemplate the financial and family matters we aren’t ready to face. However, you must have an estate plan to protect your assets and family members. Having a completed estate plan can calm any distress that could happen in the future, and you’ll be at ease knowing your final wishes are met.
An estate planning attorney can help you draft legal documents to ensure all of your wishes are met after your death. Because this is an important part of life and your decisions are important, you‘ll need to work with an attorney you can trust. Finding the right lawyer is key. Here are the questions you should ask before you hire an attorney to help draft your estate plan.
Do You Specialize in Estate Planning?
If an attorney doesn’t specialize in estate planning, they’re probably not going to be as good at it as a lawyer that does. An estate planning specialist knows all of the current laws and regulations and knows to carefully word your documents. Those who do not specialize in estate planning likely don’t have the time to keep up with all of the legal statutes. If your documents are drafted incorrectly, they won’t hold up in court.
How Long Have You Been Practicing?
Finding the most experienced attorney possible should be your main priority. Experienced estate planning attorneys have faced most of the challenges that can arise from estate planning, so they know what issues to look out for when drafting your documents.
Do You Execute the Plan?
Some estate planning attorneys draw up documents while others also execute the estate plan and trusts. It will be more efficient and affordable to work with a lawyer that draws up the documents and executes the plan to ensure all of the assets are correctly transferred into the trust.
Do You Conduct Reviews?
Some estate planning attorneys will conduct regular reviews of your affairs. This can be beneficial because it will allow them to note where you should make any changes based on your current situation. Many people who experience a life change may not remember to update their estate plans, but they must. New amendments can also impact aspects of your estate plan.
Many estate planning attorneys don’t conduct these reviews, so if you want to make sure there is someone there to remind you about updating your documents, then finding an attorney who does perform reviews is your best course of action.
What Will My Estate Plan Include?
Your estate plan may have multiple wills and trusts. Your estate planning attorney should be knowledgeable about wills, trusts, insurance, and taxes so you can understand the nuances of estate planning. Your lawyer should also be able to help you determine which tool is best for you.
How Do You Determine Your Fees?
Lawyers typically charge flat fees or charge by the hour, but some do both. No matter how an attorney charges, it’s important you know how their fees are determined so you can make the right financial choice.
How Long Does the Process Take?
In many cases, there is no rush to draft your estate plan. However, you should plan to address certain aspects of your plan with other professionals, including accountants and money managers. A lawyer’s expertise may overlap with your accountant, but they are not investment advisors. If you need to include other professionals in the process, make sure to let your lawyer know and ask them how long they think the process will take.
If you are in a rush to draft your estate plan, let your attorney know as soon as possible so they know to make it a bigger priority.
Can I Review My Documents?
Even if your attorney is highly experienced, you should always review your documents and invoices. This will help you avoid miscommunications and mistakes that can go against your wishes. Most attorneys will allow you to review your documents since miscommunications can happen no matter how experienced an attorney they are.
When you review your estate plan, make sure you read it carefully and make a note of any issues or questions you have. If you find that something is completely incorrect within the documents, make sure to contact your attorney immediately so they can make adjustments.
Will My Plan Be Personalized?
Estate plans should be personalized. While you can find a will online that will allow you to fill your information into blanks on a page, they will not be tailored to your needs. If your attorney doesn’t take the time to understand what you want, or you choose to purchase a pre-drafted estate plan, you can’t ensure that all of your wishes are met after your death.
Your family situation, asset portfolio, and your wishes are unique, so your will should be unique and personalized. Instead, work with a lawyer that takes the time to understand your needs and tailor your estate plan.
Does Your Office Handle the Signing Ceremony?
Most lawyers do not handle the signing ceremony because some rules and formalities must be followed when it comes to signing your estate plan. If your documents aren’t signed, witnessed, and notarized properly, then it is invalid.
It’s best to work with a lawyer who can handle the signing process for you so they can schedule witnesses, provide a notary, and make sure all of the rules are followed.
Who Can I Talk to When You’re Out of Office?
Most attorneys will make themselves available to you as much as possible, but there are times when they might not be available. In that case, you’ll need to know if there is someone else you can call if you have questions or want to change your estate plan. If your lawyer doesn’t have anyone else for you to contact, make sure they have a system in place for handling requests so you can confirm all of the changes you need can be correctly done.