Hiring a lawyer to help you make wise decisions for life and death can be the most empowering choice you ever make for yourself and your loved ones. The right lawyer will be there for your family when you can’t be, so you want to understand who the lawyer is as a person, not just an attorney. Of course, you’ll also want to discover the services your lawyer offers and how they run their business.
Here are five questions to ensure you don’t end up paying for legal services you don’t need, expect, or want. Once you know exactly what you should be looking for when choosing an estate planning lawyer, you’ll be much better positioned to hire an attorney that will provide the kind of love, attention, care, and trust your family deserves.
01 | How Do They Bill For Their Services?
The first question to ask isn’t “how much does it cost,” but rather, “how do you bill for your services and how do you determine what to bill for your services?”
When working with an estate planning lawyer, find a lawyer with clear expectations and boundaries who bills for all their services on a flat fee, no surprises basis —and never hourly—unless a court requires it for limited “court-related” services.
Your lawyer should determine the fees they charge you only after guiding you through a process of discovery in which they learn about your family dynamics and your assets and educate you about what would happen for your family and assets if and when something happens to you. Through that process, they will help you choose the right plan that meets your budget and desired outcomes.
02 | How Will Your Lawyer Respond To Your Needs On An Ongoing Basis?
One of people's biggest complaints about working with lawyers is a lack of responsiveness. To ensure your lawyer can be responsive to your needs, ask them how quickly calls are typically returned in their office and if someone will be on-hand to answer quick questions when and as needed.
Ideally, all calls to your lawyer should be pre-scheduled with a clear agenda, so you both can be ready to focus on your specific needs.
03 | How Will Your Lawyer Proactively Communicate With You On An Ongoing Basis?
Sadly, most lawyers fail to communicate regularly with their clients. As a result, if you’ve created an estate plan in the past, you may not have realized that estate planning means a lifetime of wise legal and financial decisions, not a one-and-done kind of thing.
You want to work with a lawyer with systems to keep your documents current and ensure your assets are owned correctly and protected throughout your lifetime. Ideally, the lawyer should get to know you and your family over time so that when something happens, your lawyer can be there for the people you love. There will already be an underlying relationship and trust with regular communication.
04 | Can You Call About Any Legal Problem Or Just Matters Within Their Specialty?
Given the complexity of today’s legal world, lawyers must have specialized training in one or more specific practice areas. You do NOT want to work with a “door law” attorney - a lawyer who professes to be an expert in whatever random legal issue walks through the door.
That said, you do want your personal lawyer to have broad enough expertise to consult with him or her about all sorts of legal and financial issues that may come up in your life—and trust he or she will be able to offer you sound guidance about whether you have a legal issue, or not. And while your lawyer will not be able to advise you on all legal matters, he or she should be able to refer you to other trusted professionals who can help you.
In this capacity, you can consult your personal lawyer before you sign any legal documents, any time you have a legal or financial issue arise, or whenever anything that might adversely affect your family or business comes up, and know that you’ll get excellent guidance.
05 | What Happens When The Die Or Retire?
This is a critically important—and often overlooked—question to ask your lawyer and any service professional before beginning a relationship. Sure, it may be uncomfortable to ask. A client-centered professional will have a succession plan to ensure their clients are cared for no matter what happens to the lawyer managing your plan.
Look for a lawyer with a detailed plan that will ensure that someone warm and caring will take over your planning without any interruption of service.
A Lasting Relationship
Although hiring the right estate planning lawyer may not seem that important, it’s one of the most critical choices you can make for yourself and your family. After all, this is the individual you trust to serve on your behalf to protect and provide for your loved ones during one of life’s most emotionally challenging experiences. Should you choose the wrong person for the job, your family could face unnecessary conflicts, expenses, and legal entanglements when they are most vulnerable.
At our firm, we develop a relationship with you and your family that lasts a lifetime. Our unique, family-centered, flat free, communication driven legal services are specifically tailored to provide our clients with the kind of love, attention, and trust we’d want for our loved ones. We work with a community of lawyers just like us who serve clients with Life & Legacy Planning, so if anything happens to us you will be treated with the same level of care and relationship that we provide.
To learn more about our one-of-a-kind systems and services, contact us today.
This article is a service of Desmond Law, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. 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 all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session™ and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.