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5 Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Lawyer

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 16, 2014 10:17 AM

If you want to hire a lawyer to draft a will or trust, what questions should you ask an estate planning lawyer to make sure he or she is a good fit for you?

Having an estate plan in place helps to ensure that your final wishes are carried out after you've passed away. Beyond writing a will, estate planning attorneys can help you with tax, financial, and business planning.

So what questions do you need to ask before hiring an estate planning lawyer? Here are five questions you may want to consider:

  1. What are your legal fees? For many legal consumers, the single most important question to ask an estate planning lawyer is what his or her legal fees are. Depending on the type of work you're requesting, there are several fee agreement plans a lawyer can offer. For instance, if you only need to prepare a will or prenuptial agreement, the lawyer may charge a flat fee for the service. For ongoing probate issues, the lawyer may charge an hourly fee.
  2. Do I need to prepare anything for our initial consultation? In order to help the attorney understand your needs, you may want to prepare a document listing information such as your marital status, number of children, special requests, and an inventory of your shared and individual assets. This will give the attorney a better idea of how to properly represent you, and can even save you time (and money).
  3. Where are you licensed to practice law? If you have assets in other states, one question to ask your estate planning lawyer is which states they're licensed to practice in. To practice law in another state, the lawyer must be licensed by that state's bar association.
  4. If I have complex estate planning issues, can you answer all of my questions? While some people assume that estate planning attorneys only draft wills, many lawyers in the estate planning field also specialize in trusts, probate, and tax law since those types of issues are related to a person's estate. If the attorney is unable to answer all of your complex questions, he may be able to refer to you another lawyer.
  5. Does my will need to be updated because of a life-changing event? If you already have a will, but made changes to your life since it was drafted -- like divorce, marriage, or starting a new business, you may want to update your will. A local estate-planning lawyer can tell you whether a will update is necessary in your specific situation. And since each state has different laws regarding the legal way to change a will, a local lawyer will be able to figure out the best way to proceed.

It's important to hire an attorney who understands your needs and requests, especially when dealing with something as personal as estate planning. Asking your potential lawyer these five questions will help you determine if he or she is right for you.

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