Estate Planning: Selecting An Attorney
Planning what to do with your estate is no easy task. There are emotional and financial decisions that go into creating a solid estate plan, so hiring an attorney should be among your first steps.
What exactly is your estate and why is it important to plan what happens to it after your death? Your estate is made up of all of your personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other assets. While the law contains an official chain of events related to the disposing of these properties, it is best to figure out the details of what happens to your assets well before the task falls to the courts.
This is where an estate planning attorney is key. You want your will and trust to be written in a way that covers all your bases. This can be a complicated issue, so it’s best to leave it in the hands of a licensed professional.
When looking for an estate planning attorney, be prepared to invest significant time and energy to find the right fit for you. This is an important decision that requires diligent research on your part. Start by visiting your state or local bar association’s website, where you will find an active list of members that can be searched by specialty.
You also can call a local attorney’s office for an initial consultation to go over your specific needs. Some attorneys will charge you for this session, while others won’t. Be sure to ask up front so you know what kind of investment will be required.
Board Certified Specialists
Some states allow attorneys to become certified specialists in a particular area of law, such as trusts and estates. If professional certification is available in your state, the bar association will have information about the requirements.
Before applying for certification, an attorney must have a certain number of years of experience practicing law in a particular area, usually at least five. To become certified, an attorney must submit a number of professional references, take additional courses in that area of law and pass a lengthy written exam.
There are no better referrals than trusted friends and family members. Ask the people around you if they or someone you know has had a great experience with an estate planning attorney.
Be sure to get all of the pertinent details from your connections, including cost of the estate planning process, the length of time it took to build the necessary documents and their thoughts about the attorney’s professionalism and communication skills.