Planning what will happen to your estate upon your death is something that people often put off doing until they have reached a certain age. Usually, they plan it upon reaching their retirement ages, which is considered late.
It is advised that people should consult an estate lawyer regarding their estate plan upon starting their family. It doesn’t matter if your assets are not that much; you should still plan it early in life.
So, if you have finally decided to call up an estate planning attorney, here are a few questions you should ask before hiring them:
- Is estate planning the focus of your law career?
When searching for a law firm that will handle your estate planning, you will be able to choose from big law firms that handle different cases, including estate planning, or a relatively small firm, like The Law Office of Libby Banks, that focuses on estate planning alone. There will be a lot of choices for you.
However, no matter what type of law firm you decide to hire, you must choose a lawyer who has a vast experience on estate planning, wills, and trusts. If possible, this must be the focus of their law career. So, your lawyer’s answer to this question must be a big “yes.”
- Will you charge by the hour or do you have a flat rate?
Of course, when looking for a lawyer to help and guide you when it comes to the legal aspects of estate planning, it is important to know beforehand an estimate of how much the whole process will cost you.
Ideally, it is best if the lawyer or the law firm offers a flat rate price for the estate planning package. This way, you won’t be nervous upon receiving the bill from them since you already know how much it costs.
If they do offer a flat rate, ask them what is included in the package. As you know, estate planning is more than just making a will. There are many ways to plan your estate and it can also involve a power of attorney and the appointment of a healthcare proxy. So, it is beneficial for you if you plan it in advance.
If they charge by the hour, then be prepared for a huge bill since some law firms will inflate their hours and you can’t prove it because you can’t be present while they work and count the hours. So it is best to look around further than hiring a lawyer who charges by the hour.
- Can I be a part of the estate planning?
As mentioned earlier, estate planning is more than just making a will. There are many ways to comprehensively plan for your estate’s future and you would want to be part of the whole process.
First of all, your input would be necessary in choosing which way you would like to plan your estate. Would you like to have a living trust? Will it be necessary to appoint a guardian to your minor children? And so on. Of course, you need the guidance of an estate lawyer, but you must also take charge of how you would like to proceed with the estate planning.
Some lawyers often just ask the necessary questions to proceed with your estate planning and send over the draft of the documents to you so you can review them if they reflect your wishes. But since you may not understand the meaning and implications of certain terms, you must be able to ask your estate planning lawyer or a trusted lawyer to explain these matters to you. This is a good and practical way as well. As long as you are in charge and your wishes are reflected on your estate plan, then that is good enough.
So if your lawyer answers a yes to this question, then you should include them to your shortlist of candidates of lawyers you would like to work with.
- Do you offer services that provide annual or bi-annual updates to my estate plan?
An estate plan should be updated whenever significant changes occur in one’s life. For example, if you had just divorced your wife, then you should update your estate plan to reflect such changes. If your ex-wife was your healthcare proxy, then it would probably be best to change that part in your estate plan.
As an estate plan must be updated every now and then, it is best for you if your estate planning attorney offers this service. Some estate planning attorneys offer this service as part of a package or if you pay an additional price for every update. If that is not the case, and the attorney doesn’t offer updating services, then perhaps it is better to move on and look for another one.
The questions listed above are very general questions that you absolutely must ask an estate planning attorney. You can and should ask more questions depending on what your standards are, and what your priorities are with regards to estate planning. So perhaps, it is better to ask yourself what your priorities are before looking for an estate planning attorney.