Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney

Many people get stressed out when they think about choosing an estate planning attorney (or an Elder Law Attorney). After all, we are talking about picking a person who we will end up sharing lots of personal information with.

An attorney is sort of like a doctor in that the more you tell him about yourself, the better he or she can help you. I guess that’s why there is a doctor-patient privilege as well as an attorney-client privilege.

As we talk a lot about on this web site, your estate planning encompasses virtually every area of your life. Your estate planning lawyer needs to know all about your finances; insurance; businesses; family relationships; medical issues; even your goals and dreams so that he can advise you regarding your plans for your estate.

Given the importance of these matters, it’s easy to see why people worry about how to find the best estate planning attorney for them.

Estate Planning Attorney

Cost? You shouldn't expect to be able to get the kind of advice and service you need for $100 or less. Even a "simple" will is rarely as simple as you might think. Yes, the attorney's forms are automated, but you are really paying for their time and expertise to learn about your unique circumstances and think about how to adjust the language in the will to fit your individual needs.

Or, maybe a living trust would work better for you. What about your powers of attorney? All of these documents need to be thought through and coordinated so they work best for you. Even, if your life is "cookie-cutter" you won't know that for sure unless you talk to a professional.

So, what’s my advice on how to find and pick the right estate planning attorney for you? [These tips apply also when finding and selecting an elder law or medicaid attorney.]

First, I’d say you should talk to friends, co-workers, family members -- people you know -- who either are lawyer's or have worked with them, and ask them if they can give you the name of a good estate planning attorney.

The more specific as to you needs, the better. Even estate planning lawyers specialize in different areas of estate planning like elder law, wills and trusts, probate, estate tax, etc. etc. Make sure you get an experienced local attorney who is licensed and knows estate planning law in your state.

Some states allow attorney's to formally specialize in a particular area. Often estate planning is one of those areas. If the attorney is certified by his state bar with an estate planning specialty, then he or she likely is very experienced in the area; well-regarded by his peers; not been subject to disciplinary action; and is required each year to take continuing legal education classes to stay abreast of changes in estate planning law and practice.

So, I’d try asking acquaintances for references first. But really whether that provides you with leads or not, you still should do some research on your own. Check out the websites of any attorney or law firm names you get.

Another good resource is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. On the NAELA Website you can search for an elder law / estate planning lawyer in your area. You'll find their address, contact information, phone number and also information about what kind of specializations or certifications the attorney has.

You also could use LegalMatch.

LegalMatch offers a website matching service that helps people find the right attorney for them. It’s free and easy to use.

It’s also very efficient. Just by filling out a short on-line form you can have your “case” presented to multiple qualified attorneys in your area. (LegalMatch is national.)

Qualified attorneys will review your submission (your questions or statement about the services you need) and reply and let you know if they think they can help.

You then review what the attorney’s have said; you can research them and/or their firm. You can also check the LegalMatch database to see if anyone else used the attorney and left feedback about them.

Make sure to review the lawyer's qualifications and ask him about his experience handling cases similar to yours.

Also, right up front is probably the best time to get the fees established. The attorney will likely want your business. So, this is the point when you are likely to get quoted a lower fee -- not later, once the work has begun.

Besides, frankly, I'd rather get the costs in a written e-mail and get that out of the way before meeting face-to-face.

After you have all your preliminary questions answered, you then decide if you want to pursue a phone call or meeting with any of the attorneys.

Think a lot about which one you seem to get along best with. Even communications by e-mail can tell you a lot about friendliness, knowledge and responsiveness.

You don't pay anything until you select the attorney that seems best for you. And, then you work the cost of the services out with the attorney. You never pay LegalMatch at all.

Click on the graphic below to go to the LegalMatch site and begin choosing an estate planning attorney. After you get there you simply go to the "Wills, Trusts and Estates" category and go from there.

Estate Planning Attorney's For Each State and Canada

To find a personal injury lawyer or attorney go to PILawHubUSA.

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--by Beth Heikkinen
Marquette, Michigan
I just want to thank you for this site. It answered my questions. I think many people that do research on the net take it for granted and when they find what they are looking for they forget "someone put time, money, etc into providing me with this information."

Thank you!

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