Estate planning is a critical part of financial planning, but it is something that many Americans prefer to procrastinate about. However, drafting a will, health care proxy, and power of attorney are too important to leave to chance, says Next Avenue in the article “How to Find a Good Estate Planner.” An experienced estate planning attorney can help prevent critical mistakes and help you adjust your plan as circumstances change. Picking the right estate planning attorney can make the process easier, less stressful and ultimately more effective. So how do you do it?
Here are a few tips:
Look for an estate planning attorney. An attorney who practices real estate law, divorce, or business law is not going to be up on all of the latest changes to estate and tax laws. Not all attorneys are trained in all areas, but some will accept work in areas with which they are less than perfectly familiar. Stick to attorneys who focus on the drafting of estate plans.
Next, determine if the attorney deals with families who are in similar situations to yours. An attorney who works with family-owned businesses, for instances, will be more helpful in creating an estate plan that includes tax and succession planning.
Experience matters in this area of the law. The laws of your state are just one of the many parts that the attorney needs to know by heart. The estate planning attorney who has been practicing for many years, will have a better sense of how families work, what problems crop up and how to avoid them.
Ask about costs. Don’t be shy. You want to be clear from the start what you should expect to be spending on an estate plan. The attorney should be comfortable having this discussion with you and your spouse or family member. Remember that the attorney will be able to understand the scope of work, only after they speak with you about your situation. What may seem simple to you, may be more complicated than you think, and few attorneys will be able to tell you an accurate price without finding out many details about your family, your assets and your estate planning goals.
Picking the right estate planning attorney does not mean picking the cheapest. This is an investment in your family’s future. While the costs shouldn’t be outrageous, choosing a qualified, experienced professional is not a matter of looking solely at the bottom line.
If a trust is added, the fees are likely to increase. A trust can be used to avoid or minimize estate taxes, avoid probate, save on time and court fees and create conditions for the distribution of assets after you die. This increased cost does come with added value, however. Often you can save your estate many times the increased cost down the road. You can also implement more creative and useful plans based around a living trust.
Don’t neglect to have the attorney create a Power of Attorney form and any other advance directives you need. These vary by state, and you don’t want them to get too old, or they may become out of date.
Recognize that this is an ongoing relationship. Make sure that you are comfortable with the attorney, how the practice is run, and the ease of communicating with the attorney. You will be working very closely with this professional, so your convenience and comfort are paramount. Make sure the attorney has flexible scheduling options to make it easier to meet.
This is also not a one-and-done event. Having an estate plan is a lot like having a home—it requires maintenance. Every four years or so, or when large events occur in your life, you’ll need to have your will reviewed.
Your estate planning attorney should become a trusted advisor who works hand in hand with your accountant and financial advisor. Together, they should all be looking out for you and your family.
Reference: Next Avenue (September 10, 2019) “How to Find a Good Estate Planner”