The selection of your estate attorney is a critical one. Remember that your attorney will be dealing with the most important aspects of your personal and financial lives.
Estate planning is the follow through to everything that you do. Your estate attorney will help you design and implement a plan that specifically addresses the dreams, fears, and aspirations of you and your family.
I believe in a high “TECK” practice. Yes, we use software and hardware technology. I am not referring to these here. I use the “TECK” acronym as a means to evaluate someone that you may engage to be your attorney, doctor, accountant, and even your auto mechanic.
T: Do you TRUST the person? If you do not trust the person, do not hire him or her.
E: Is the person ESTABLISHED? How long has the person been practicing?
Is he or she well known in the community? What is his or her reputation?
C: Does the person truly CARE about your needs and concerns?
K. Does person have the KNOWLEDGE, or is she/he willing to get the knowledge in a timely basis?
Frequently, clients will state that they have a “simple” case. A case may be “basic” but there is nothing “simple” about estate planning. I have three years of law school, a three year post-doctoral program in estate planning, I continuously take continuing legal education, I continuously read and learn about the subject, and yet, I do not claim to know everything about estate planning on any given day. This means that I am either not very smart or the subject matter, which is constantly changing, is not simple.
The real mastery comes in knowing when something is in fact basic and knowing when something more is needed. If you are working with someone that you trust, you can be confident that that person will recommend solutions that are appropriate for your particular needs.
I am frequently asked “what do you charge?” No attorney can tell you what he or she will charge until he or she has reviewed your situation and met with you. Two clients may look the same financially, but their plans may be totally different based upon their particular set of personal and family circumstances. The fee will reflect this difference. This is why I have my long established client progression which is described in another area of this site.
Imagine a patient calling the doctor and complaining about a headache. In many cases the doctor is going to want to see the patient before diagnosing the condition and prescribing a remedy. Sometimes the remedy is a pain reliever, and other times it is surgery. It would be a disservice to the patient to prescribe either without examining the situation and talking with the patient. The same is true with estate planning. The mastery of the doctor, or the estate planner, comes from knowing which remedy is appropriate for the case at hand.
Finally, times have changed in recent years. The days of the ten or twenty year old documents are over. The laws are in constant flux, the tax laws change regularly, and our lives are in flux. You want to determine how proactive your attorney will be with you.
Remember, you and your attorney need to work together as a team. Your attorney should keep you apprised of changes in the law. You should keep your attorney aware of changes in your personal and financial circumstances. Together, you should have a nice relationship where you can work to protect your best interests and the best interests of your loved ones.
This is how you should select your estate attorney.
This information was prepared by Lena Barnett & Associates, LLC and is intended only to provide general information.
It is neither offered nor intended for use as legal advice, nor is it a substitute for a consultation with an attorney.
© 2006 Lena Barnett & Associates, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved