How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney

Mar 5, 2024 | Estates Planning and Asset Protection

Ever gone on a road trip only to find yourself completely turned around and unable to get your bearings?

To be fair, this kind of situation is less common today. Built-in navigation, smartphones, and Google Maps (or Waze, pick your favorite) have made getting lost much less common and frustrating than it used to be. 

But the thing is, digital navigation aids like these work because planning a trip is much less complicated than other kinds of planning. 

Turning to technology for other undertakings, like estate planning, is far more complex. With estate planning, choosing the right guide is essential to getting where you want to go (and not getting lost along the way). 

This is where a skilled, experienced estate planning attorney is invaluable. These legal professionals act as co-navigators to help you create a comprehensive, tailored plan that protects your assets, honors your wishes, and secures your family’s future.

There are dozens of law offices offering estate planning services, so how do you choose the right one? Consider these five tips for selecting the right attorney for your unique needs.

1. Get organized

Before you even begin your search for the right estate planning attorney, the first step is to get your house in order (figuratively speaking, but depending on your asset, possibly literally). Understanding your situation, needs, and goals helps you find an attorney who can offer tailored advice and solutions. There are two ways you can prepare.

Ask pertinent questions

First, ask yourself some key questions to determine your estate planning needs. These questions could include:

  • What are my main objectives with my estate plan? Is it asset protection, probate avoidance, care for dependents, or something else?
  • Do I have any complex financial situations, such as owning a business or properties in multiple states?
  • Are there any particular family dynamics like a blended family or special needs dependent that needs to be addressed?
  • What are my preferences regarding end-of-life care and decision-making?
  • Are there charitable causes or organizations I want to support through my estate?

Gather all your assets together

It’s equally important to gather a comprehensive list of your assets, which can encompass:

  • Real estate properties
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Business interests
  • Personal property (i.e., vehicles, jewelry, artwork, etc.)
  • Digital assets such as social media accounts, online businesses, and cryptocurrency

2. Ask for recommendations

Getting personal recommendations allows you to tap into the experiences of those you trust and gain insights that are often more telling than online reviews or credentials alone. 

Friends and family can share firsthand experiences with specific attorneys, including:

  • The level of personal attention they received
  • The complexity of their estate
  • How satisfied they were with the communication and outcomes

Your professional network is equally valuable. Specialists you already work with—such as your financial advisor, accountant, or insurance agent—understand the intricacies of estate planning and often have established relationships with attorneys in the field. They also have professional insight and intimate knowledge of your situation, so they can recommend attorneys who are skilled, reputable, and capable of handling your specific needs.

By getting recommendations, you can narrow your options and select an attorney who will represent and partner with you to secure your legacy and peace of mind.

3. Look for a local, experienced estate planning attorney

Many law firms offer estate planning services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they focus specifically on estate planning. It’s best to look for an attorney with proven estate planning experience and one local to you. 

Why?

First, estate planning laws can vary significantly from one state to another. A local attorney will have up-to-date knowledge of your state’s estate and probate laws to make a plan that adheres to the latest legal requirements and best practices.

4. Interview several attorneys

Interviewing multiple attorneys allows you to compare their qualifications, experiences, communication styles, philosophies, and how comfortable you feel with them. 

Here are some questions you can ask each attorney to decide who is best for you:

  • What percentage of the practice is dedicated to estate planning?
  • Are you licensed and board-certified in estate planning and probate law?
  • How long have you been practicing estate planning?
  • Can you provide examples of similar cases you’ve handled?
  • Will you personally manage my estate plan, or will other team members be involved?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with clients, and how often?
  • How do you stay updated with changes in estate planning laws and practices?
  • Can you explain your approach to estate planning and how it differs from others?
  • What is your process for updating and reviewing existing estate plans?
  • Can you provide references from past clients?
  • What happens if there are disputes or challenges to my estate plan?

5. Compare fees

While cost shouldn’t be the primary factor in choosing an estate planning attorney, it’s still an important consideration for most.  You are investing in the future of your family. The old maxim “you get what you pay for” really comes into play. 

When comparing fees, make sure you make apples-to-apples comparisons and fully understand what’s included in each quote. To do so, you can:

  • Fee Structure: Is representation a flat fee or hourly?  If hourly, how much is the retainer? 
  • Ask about potential additional costs, such as updates to your estate plan or expenses associated with executing wills and trusts. Is this part of a client care program or billed hourly? 
  • Consider the value each attorney offers. Sometimes, a higher fee reflects a level of expertise and service that provides greater peace of mind and saves money in the long run by avoiding costly mistakes or oversights.
  • Some attorneys provide client care programs and trust funding assistance, while others don’t. Having the continuing guidance of an attorney during the funding process is invaluable. 

A good estate planning attorney is an investment in your family’s future. While cost is a factor, focus on the value and protection they offer to make an informed, responsible decision that aligns with your needs, wishes, and budget.

Secure your legacy with the right estate planning attorney

If you’re looking for an experienced estate planning attorney to help protect your legacy, the law firm of Shann M. Chaudhry Esq., Attorney at Law PLLC, is here to help!  Our team of empathetic, service-oriented communicators specializes in estate planning and listens carefully to our clients’ preferences to create an effective and individualized plan that meets their needs. 

You don’t have to navigate your estate planning journey alone. With every case, we make sure you understand your custom plan, how to implement it, and how to execute it. 

Contact us to schedule your affordable consultation and see how we can help you create the best plan for your future.

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