Estate planning is a very personal matter. Talking about your assets, hopes for the future, death and your desires for your children and grandchildren is often not easy, particularly with someone you do not know well. However, you will need to discuss these matters when establishing or modifying your estate plan.
Choosing the right legal professional to help you with this endeavor can be difficult. Here are some traits you should look for when making your choice:
- Experience: If you have spent a lifetime amassing wealth, you won't want an inexperienced lawyer making a mistake that could send most of it to Uncle Sam instead of your heirs and favorite charities. Choose a highly-experienced attorney who only handles estate planning, probate and long-term care matters. A skilled attorney will help you establish a bulletproof trust ensuring that your wishes are carried out and can also help families avoid litigation during the administration process.
- Education: Most people want to know why they need estate plans and how the various documents in their plans help to accomplish their goals. A good attorney will thoroughly explain the planning process to you, making certain you understand what you need, when you need it and why.
- Communication: Being able to talk freely with the lawyer you hire is a key ingredient to your attorney-client relationship. Find a lawyer who is not only experienced, but with whom you feel comfortable talking about sensitive issues and who will explain and keep you abreast of each step of the process.
- Holistic approach: Drafting your estate plan is not just about putting some documents together. It is about assessing your life goals and dreams for your family's future. An attorney cannot draft a plan without assessing all your needs as a whole.
Take your time when choosing an estate planning and probate lawyer. Talk to your friends and family. Attend a free, no-obligation seminar. Ask questions and decide which attorney has the traits you value. Then, do not hesitate to set up a consultation to get the ball rolling. It's never too early to start planning, but it can be too late.