Whether you’re an accomplished executive, multi-business owner, or a single mother, sitting down for the first time with an estate planning attorney can be nerve wracking. In a society with so many options—including estate planners—feeling comfortable with important decision making is easier said than done.
A sophisticated estate planning attorney covers a lot of terrain, from assessing the assets that comprise your estate, to helping you consider the best executor, to whether you need a Will, a living trust, an irrevocable trust, a testamentary trust, or a combination of all of the above. . As a prospective client, you may wonder if your research was thorough enough, or if your list of questions truly address the complicated legal issues you hope to tackle in a preliminary meeting. The good news is an experienced estate planning attorney should ask at least five crucial questions during your first consultation.
What would you like to accomplish with your estate plan?
Estate planning attorneys who value quality client relationships want to know exactly why you have sought their services and any personal or specific goals. To clearly identify the needs of the potential client, the attorney may ask about existing children or grandchildren; varying needs of heirs; and outstanding tax issues.
Do you own property out of state or the country?
You may be startled by some of the personal questions that are asked by a solid estate planner. Some of these questions will invariably connect to any existing or future real estate. If a work relocation is in the future, you may be advised to obtain an attorney in the new state, or may opt to utilize a will or trust subject to the laws of your future state and primary residence. In California, it’s common for people to have assets abroad. Your estate planning attorney will ask questions about the location of assets, or may inquire about when they were obtained.
Who would you want to fill the roles of executor, trustees of different trusts, guardian for minor children (if applicable), and who can act as an agent under a financial and/or medical Power of Attorney?
In any estate plan, determination of the fiduciaries (the people or institutions that will fill each role) are crucial. Your estate planning attorney should carefully define each job for you and advise how to select the various people, banks, or trust companies to fill each role.
Do you understand and feel comfortable with the fees you will pay for the services?
This is a question, regardless of specialization, that any qualified attorney will ask. Trust and Estate planning attorneys can have different fee structures. Some attorneys may bill on an hourly basis while others may work on a flat fee basis. In terms of fees, transparency is truly the best, there is one golden rule: transparency and disclosure.
Make sure to hire an estate planning attorney with the skills, experience, and charisma that makes you look forward to building a relationship with them. Estate planning is not an easy or quick process and it only makes sense to work with a professional who’s prepared to offer top level service. If you haven’t found an estate planning attorney who fits your needs, you can contact us here.