One of the biggest reasons people hold off on seeing an attorney, for any reason, is the intimidation factor. We understand. Nobody is starting their day with “Wow, I can’t wait to speak with my attorney!” But there comes a point in all our lives—attorneys included—where we need to consult with an attorney. Understandably, speaking with an estate planning attorney can be especially stressful or intimidating insofar as two social taboos are the key areas of discussion: Death and Taxes. When the time does come to speak to an attorney (and it should come sooner rather than later), there are strategies to make the process painless and anxiety free for both you and the attorney.
You may be wondering why you should do any work at all to ensure the process runs smoothly. Well, think of a time when you have made an appointment with your doctor about recurring headaches. The doctor will ask standard questions like “When did the headaches begin?” and “What medications have you been taking?” If your response was simply, “Oh I have no idea” to every question, the doctor would have very little to work with to provide the most accurate diagnosis. It may seem peculiar, but, attorneys are much like physicians. They want to help you help yourself, and can only do so much without adequate information or guidance. When you enter a relationship with an attorney, you are essentially joining a team: results take teamwork.
While attorneys are well-versed in their area of expertise, you need to provide necessary background information (details, documents, goals, etc.) so they can easily navigate the legal roads before them.
Are you anxious about speaking with an attorney? Here are five ways to ensure a comfortable experience and successful outcome.
- Be straightforward. Being honest and up front with your attorney is critical. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate and don’t obfuscate information. Remember, by law, your attorney cannot share confidential information with anyone unless you have granted them permission to do so. When you withhold relevant facts or pad your story with fictitious information, it will only cause harm in the end. For example, when seeing an estate planning attorney, it’s important to reveal any familial tensions, as those could be potentially problematic. Be prepared to explain everything to your attorney—both the good and the bad. This ensures his or her ability to offer you the best guidance possible.
- Be Goal Oriented. When speaking with an attorney, especially an estate planning attorney, it’s helpful to already have a few goals in mind. What outcome would you like to result from working with the attorney? What pain points do you hope the attorney can help you resolve? By arriving to a consultation with specific goals, the attorney is better equipped to offer the most pertinent solutions and assistance.
- Be detailed. Although you may see certain details as irrelevant, chances are your attorney will not. Consider researching your attorney’s specialization prior to your meeting to get a feel of what information will be required of you and begin making a detailed list of concerns and questions. Having more information is always better than less.
- Get organized. After you’ve reflected on the details of your situation, begin logging it on paper, in Microsoft Word, or in Google Docs. Think in terms of lists and attempt to segment your information in a way that will cause the least overwhelm. This may seem tedious, but, it will save time and stress in the long run.
- Request clarification. If you ever find yourself confused by legal terminology, that’s okay (and 100% normal!). What isn’t okay is pretending you understand something when you don’t, or thinking you’ll save your attorney time by omitting an explanation, or because you’re embarrassed to admit your confusion. Instead, let your attorney know you need additional clarification or guidance. Getting additional information will ease up your anxiety!
You are not in the legal process by yourself. Your attorney is there to ensure the process runs smoothly and to help put any questions/issues to rest. By taking specific measures to prepare yourself for your attorney/client relationship, you can ensure the process is more enjoyable and less daunting.