When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept the nation, one thing became clear early on: many Americans don’t have a plan in place to protect their family’s future. In fact, research found that almost 70% of Americans had no will, leaving their loved ones vulnerable in the case of their death.
In the years since, some of us have taken the time to draft a will and trust, though many continue to put off this crucial task.
If you’re among those who are ready to prepare for your future, searching “estate planning attorney near me” may seem like your best bet—but not so fast! Hiring the first lawyer you see online isn’t always a good idea, especially because everyone’s needs can be unique. Before you sign on the dotted line, here are a few things to know about finding the right partner for your estate planning services.
Consider Your Personal Needs
Before you delve too deep into finding the best estate planning attorney, it’s important to think about your own needs. Knowing what you want to get out of the experience can ensure that you’re looking for someone who can help with your unique challenges.
There are a few common needs you may want to consider:
- Do you want to create and customize a new will?
- Are you trying to update an existing estate plan according to personal or family changes?
- Do you need to establish power of attorney?
- Do you want to set up guardianship?
- Are you looking for ways to reduce your estate tax?
- Are you hoping to set up a trust for your beneficiaries?
- Do you need help dealing with power of attorney after the recent death of a loved one?
- Are you looking for help contesting a will?
Even if you don’t have a full picture of every nuance you want to address, knowing what you want out of your future, or who you want to protect, can help you decide what services you’ll need.
In addition, knowing whether you need to worry about your long-term care or insurance can help as well. Attorneys who are well-versed in Medicaid planning, for example, can offer valuable tips to help you start thinking ahead.
Even in an age where we can find everything online, word-of-mouth recommendations can be a great help. If you know any friends, family members, or even colleagues who have had a recent need for estate planning services, consider asking them for a referral. Knowing that someone you trust was satisfied with their experience can offer great peace of mind.
In addition, you can also try asking your financial advisor, CPA, or an attorney you’ve worked with. These professionals may sometimes need to work with an estate planning lawyer, meaning that they might be able to point you in the right direction.
Find a Local Specialist
Doing a broad search for expert estate planning lawyers might seem like a good first step, but you’ll want to dig a little deeper online. It’s worth noting that you should always make sure that any attorney you choose has a license to practice law in your state.
Finding a local expert can ensure that any documents you create will comply with all state and local laws. This, in turn, means that you and your family won’t have to deal with any compliance issues down the line.
What’s more, it’s important to make sure that you’re working with an attorney who specializes in estate planning—not one who offers it as an additional service. The best estate planning experts will practice this type of law exclusively, or they’ll have just one or two other practice areas, instead of working as a legal jack-of-all-trades. This helps ensure that you’re working with someone who has thorough, up-to-date knowledge of the current laws in your area.
In addition, don’t forget to consider the specialization of each local estate planning attorney, especially if you have unique circumstances that might be less familiar to some lawyers.
Narrow Down Your Options
Once you have a shortlist of lawyers you might like to partner with, the best way to narrow down your options is to interview them.
This is best done in person, as it allows you to get a feel for their office organization, an opportunity to meet their staff, and the clarity of speaking with them face to face. However, if you’re short on time or if you’re considering lawyers from a city outside your area, a phone conversation can also help.
There are a few key things to look for here.
First, see whether the attorney asks you a thorough series of questions.
Estate planning differs from person to person because no two family situations are alike. That’s why good lawyers will ask enough questions to get to know the details of your experience—without claiming to have solutions for your issues right off the bat.
Next, ask questions of your own:
- How many years of experience do they have?
- What degree and certifications do they have?
- How and when do they communicate with clients?
- What can you expect from their billing?
- What would they recommend for your specific situation?
- Will you have a single point of contact, or will you be speaking to multiple staff members?
In addition to these questions, try to get a feel for your estate planning attorney’s personality. It’s often best to go with your gut here: you’re looking for a good personality match, as a good relationship with an experienced attorney can last a lifetime. Since you may be in contact often, it’s best to make sure you’re working with someone you’re comfortable with!
Find Your “Estate Planning Attorney Near Me”
Though doing a quick search for “estate planning attorney near me” may help you get off to a good start, you’ll want to keep the tips above in mind as you narrow down your list. Considering your needs, asking for referrals, and partnering with someone you trust can ensure that you’re happy with the outcome of your choice. Do your homework and get in touch with a few different firms in your area to find the perfect fit.
Looking for more of the essential legal insights you need to know? Be sure to check out our other content, which is packed with tips and tricks like these.