Estate planning is highly-recommended in many situations. If you have several assets that you want to transfer to heirs at a particular time with the least amount of financial burden as possible, then hiring an estate planning lawyer or firm is beneficial for you.
Beyond the last will testament, estate planning also involves plans for living trusts, solutions to avoid or mitigate estate taxes and ensure that the assets are protected from creditors of your beneficiaries. While this is crucial, hiring one should be done carefully with proper consideration.
Listed below are factors that you need to look into when hiring someone who specializes in estate planning:
1. Hire a firm with a specialty
Several things can be done by a general lawyer or firm, such as drafting a simple will, creating a power of attorney, and so on. However, estate planning should not be taken lightly and should be left in the hands of specialists.
It’s understandable that hiring a generalist firm may be the cheaper option, but you will save more money in the long run when you choose the right law firm and lawyer, such as Brian Douglas. These tasks are far more tedious and complex, and sufficient years of experience are needed to be able to do them successfully.
When looking for a specialized firm:
- Check your local bar association websites for a list of lawyers that have a specialization on estate planning.
- Opt for lawyers who are certified in the field – which means they have completed certain years of experience, presented professional references, taken additional education or courses in that area, and passed an exam.
- Look at bar records of firms and lawyers that you are interested in working with to ensure that they are in good standing.
- Get a referral from family or friends for firms or lawyers who have helped them for estate planning.
- Take time to meet your prospect firms and lawyers. See at least three of them so that you have a standard for comparison.
2. Presence of a malpractice insurance
Another consideration when hiring an estate planning firm is their malpractice insurance. You want to be compensated for loss or secure against legal liability when there are any mistakes that the estate planning lawyer or firm would commit.
Having a malpractice insurance is a good sign that the firm is willing to take responsibility for their actions, and not everyone has them, so it’s always best to double-check. This is one of the things to ask during the initial legal consultation.
3. Their stand on the probate process
While estate planning helps you to manage your assets before death, probate is what happens when you weren’t able to sort out your properties before death. The probate process is costly because it can take years before settlement.
Your beneficiaries will be burdened with legal fees, in comparison to the situation where there was a concrete plan beforehand. If the firm or lawyer hints or pushes you into a will and probate route, definitely look for a different one.
4. The fees involved
You will undoubtedly be paying higher legal fees for a firm to create, maintain, and continuously update your estate plan because of specialty and complexity. However, it is still so much better compared to hiring someone who doesn’t even know what to do in the first place.
There are different ways of how firms charge fees – some have flat-fee services, others have bundled services, and some have separate fees for varied services. Look for a firm that is clear with disclosing what they charge and how much, with being keen about the kind of service that you need.
Here are some tips in this area:
- If you happen to speak to a lawyer who gives a price without knowing your estate, it might mean they’re inexperienced or incapable. At the same time, those who charge by the hour may lengthen appointments just to get more fees from you.
- Opt for flat-fee services if you only need a particular service, like drafting a will. However, if you need more services and assistance, it could be best to get bundled services.
- A good law firm will be able to clearly explain how the rates are computed. The cost will vary according to you’re the kind of assets you have and the amount, the complications with your properties, the lawyer experience, what state you are in, and so on.
Estate planning is highly-encouraged to avoid problems with your assets when you leave them to your beneficiaries. Have an estate planning checklist and use the guide above to look for the best firm that can help you out. Once you find the potential firm, make sure that you are comfortable working with them and that you can establish a trusting relationship for your benefit.