In a digital world of quick and easy templates, it may be tempting to cut corners and execute a do-it-yourself estate plan. Or it may seem like a good idea to use a friend of a friend who practices law or the law firm down the street to draft up your will and a power of attorney. Unfortunately, these decisions can lead to some dire consequences down the road.
Estate planning is a highly complex area of law overlapping tax laws, real estate laws and probate. Regardless of your level of wealth, hiring an estate planning attorney with the right expertise for your needs will be crucial in actualizing your overall financial and planning goals. When considering who to hire, ask the following 7 questions:
1. How much of your time is dedicated to estate planning and administration? The best answer here is 100%. You do not want a jack of all trades, master of none drafting your estate planning documents.
2. Are each of your estate plans unique?You do not want boilerplate documents. You want an attorney who will carefully interview you, learn about your situation and develop a plan that works for you.
3. Can you assist me with other family members? While your conversations with your attorney are confidential, you may authorize your attorney to include your spouse, adult children or other loved ones in the process. An experienced attorney knows how to handle these communications carefully and ethically.
4. Will you work with my other advisors? In order for a comprehensive estate plan to work properly, the estate planning attorney will work closely with your financial advisors and CPAs to make sure everyone is on the same page.
5. How do estate plans stay up-to-date?You want an attorney with a system in place for reminding you to review and revise. You also want an attorney who stays up-to-date on everchanging laws and policies that may impact your plan.
6. How do you incorporate technology in your practice? Attorneys with cutting-edge client management software stay more organized, communicate better and run their offices more efficiently. This is an important question and you want to hear that using proper technology is a priority for the firm you choose.
7. How experienced is your staff?Along those same lines, you want to know that the staff if knowledgeable and able to provide information when the attorneys are unavailable.
We welcome the opportunity for you to interview us at Stouffer Legal for your estate planning, incapacity planning, elder law or probate needs. You will find that we will answer all of these questions and more to ensure that you receive the services that best fit your needs.