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How Do I Find the Right Estate Planning Attorney?

When looking for an estate planning attorney, many people feel more comfortable with getting a personal referral than by trying to find an attorney on their own.

While a referral from friends can be a good start to finding an experienced attorney, it may not be enough to cultivate a successful working relationship, says The San Francisco Business Times in the recently published article, “Guide to finding an estate planning attorney who is right for you.”

  1. Identify the type of estate planning attorney needed. Many people can use the services of an estate planning attorney to draft wills, powers of attorney, and basic trusts. However, some situations require an attorney with certain focuses. For example, those who are concerned about maximizing benefits for beneficiaries with special needs, or who are interested in inheritance lawsuit protection for their spouse or adult child, should work with an attorney with direct experience in drafting the documents needed to accomplish those objectives.

  2. Interview your short list. See if there’s a fee for a “meet and greet” conversation before you schedule a meeting. Most attorneys welcome the opportunity to speak with potential clients.

  3. Review the attorney’s educational credentials online. Then, at the introductory meeting, consider procedural questions in addition to asking for specific legal advice. For instance, you may want to ask about topics such as relevant experience, preferred methods of communication and points of contact, billing practices and whether the attorney has the bandwidth (capacity) to work on your matter.

  4. Make an assessment after the meeting. After the interview, assess how the meeting went. Ask yourself the following questions:

  5. Did the attorney respond in a timely manner?

  6. Did you understand the answers he/she gave you? Could they speak in plain English?

  7. Did you feel comfortable asking follow-up questions?

If you weren’t totally comfortable with this first meeting, you may never develop the type of open conversation that’s critical to have with your estate planning attorney. You don’t need your estate planning attorney to be your best friend, but you do need to trust them with your family’s future. If one does not suit you, continue looking until you find one who is a good fit.

  1. Move ahead. If you felt good and liked the attorney’s approach, go ahead and move forward.

  2. Get all the fee info out in the open. An estate planning attorney will usually prepare fee engagement letters that sets out the scope of services and billing practices. If your attorney doesn’t give this type of letter for you to review and sign, ask her to put the fee agreement in writing. Make certain that you understand the letter. If you have questions, get answers before signing.

Reference: San Francisco Business Times (January 4, 2019) “Guide to finding an estate planning attorney who is right for you”


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