• Holly Hurley, Esq.

5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Estate Planning Lawyer— Part 2

Hiring an estate planning lawyer can be an intimidating task, especially since you’ll be discussing personal topics like death, incapacity, and important life events. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, it can be an empowering decision that make for yourself and your loved ones. Last week, in Part 1 of this post, we listed two of the five questions you should ask before hiring an estate planning lawyer. Below, we're discussing three additional questions to consider. Read on for tips on what to look for when choosing an estate planning attorney.

3. Will you proactively communicate with me on an ongoing basis?

Many people don't realize that estate planning is not a "one-and-done" type task that you can check off your to-do list and never think about again. The truth is that you will need to re-visit your plan when there are changes in your family, changes in your assets, or changes in the law. It's logical that you would be the one to know if an update to your estate plan is necessary based on changes in your family, or even changes to your assets. But will your attorney keep you updated on changes in the law that might effect your plan, even years down the road?

They should. Ask if he or she has systems in place to keep you updated throughout your life, and ask if it's his or her practice to communicate with clients when there are changes in the law that might warrant modifications to their estate plan. If they don't, and your estate plan is not updated over time, then it's likely that it will not work in the way you want it to when your family needs it.

Think of it this way: Yes, your estate plan is a set of documents. But more importantly, it’s who and what your family will turn to when something happens to you. You want to work with a lawyer who has systems in place to keep your documents up to date and to ensure your assets are owned in the right way throughout your lifetime. Ideally, the lawyer should get to know you and your family over time, so when something happens, your lawyer can be there for the people you love, and there will already be an underlying relationship and trust.

Your lawyer should proactively communicate with you and keep you and your family educated on an ongoing basis. For example, sending out a regular email newsletter to clients is one way many attorneys keep their clients informed on any important issues or legal updates. Additionally, ask the lawyer if they include complimentary reviews of their clients' plans every few years or so.

4. Can I call about any legal problem I have, or just about matters within your specialty?

Given the complexity of today’s legal world, lawyers often focus on or specialize in one or more specific practice areas, such as divorce, bankruptcy, wills and trusts, personal injury, business, criminal matters, or employment law. You probably do not want to work with a lawyer who says "yes" to any and every type of case that walks in the door, however.

With that said, you do want your personal lawyer to have broad enough expertise that you can consult with him or her about all sorts of different legal and financial issues that may come up in your life—and trust he or she will be able to offer you sound guidance or point you in the direction of someone who can help you on a more specific level. While your lawyer may not be able to advise you on all legal matters, he or she should at least be able to refer to you to another trusted professional who can help you.

5. What happens if you die or retire?

This is a critically important—and often overlooked—question to ask not only your lawyer, but any service professional before beginning a relationship. Sure, it may be uncomfortable to ask, but a truly excellent, client-centered professional will have a plan in place to ensure their clients are taken care of no matter what happens to the individual lawyer managing your plan.

Look for a lawyer who has their own detailed plan in place that will ensure that someone reliable will take over your planning without any interruption of service. If your lawyer prepared a will, trust, and other estate planning documents for you, or if you are in the middle of a divorce or lawsuit, you want to make certain your lawyer has such a contingency plan in place, so you won’t be forced to start over from scratch should your lawyer die, retire, or become otherwise unavailable.

A Lasting Relationship

Although hiring the right estate planning lawyer may not seem like a huge decision, it’s actually one of the most critical choices you can make for both yourself and your family. After all, this is the individual you are trusting to serve on your behalf to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of life’s most traumatic experiences. If you choose the wrong person for the job, your family could potentially face all manner of unnecessary conflicts, expenses, and legal entanglements during a time when they are at their most vulnerable. In the end, estate planning is about far more than having a lawyer create a set of documents for you.

With us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we develop a relationship with you and with your family that lasts not only for your lifetime, but for the lifetime of your children and their children, if that’s your wish. Our unique, family-centered legal services are specifically tailored to provide our clients with the kind of caring attention and trust we’d want for our own loved ones.

To learn more about our one-of-a-kind systems and services, click here to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session today.

This article is a service of Holly B. Hurley, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make informed choices for yourself and your family. You can begin by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this session at no charge.

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