Choosing your estate planning lawyer in DC: 7 best tips
In this article
- 1. Define your specific needs
- 2. Perform a local search
- 3. Interview your possible choices
- 4. Observe whether or not the attorney asks you questions during the interview.
- 5. Is the lawyer’s focus estate planning?
- 6. To always keep in mind: Reputation and cost of the lawyer
- 7. You can also use online estate planning services.
You may have read our articles about what estate planning is and the 10 basics you should review about it, now it’s time for you to know how to choose the best estate planning lawyer if you are based in DC.
1. Define your specific needs
When I talk to my clients, I always emphasize that they should know what their needs are.
In Estate Planning, ideally, you should create a list of your objectives for your estate plan. If you know what your goal is before you create it, you will certainly be able to find the right lawyer to help you.
Think about this:
- Should you write your entire plan from scratch or will you simply review one you’ve already created and update it?
- Do you need help or advice about reducing future tax liabilities for the estate that will be left to your beneficiaries?
- Are you adding a specific aspect of your plan, perhaps establishing a guardianship or designating beneficiaries?
- Are you looking to create and fund a trust while observing all the benefits of a trust?
2. Perform a local search
Nowadays and thanks to the fact that we use the Internet every day and everywhere, the most common thing would be to do a quick search for a lawyer, but I invite you to think about it a little bit, since it is about Estate Planning, it is very important that you can find a lawyer that is also licensed in the state you are in AND knows the specific laws of the state you are in.
If you are in Washington DC, here is a profile you might want to check out.
Don’t forget that estate planning laws vary from State to State, so something very important to be sure of is that your attorney is up to date on the laws of the State you are in, so you can make sure that everything is done in the best way for your loved ones to avoid inconveniences in the future (and legal problems, of course!)
3. Interview your possible choices
When you have selected a few candidates from the list you should have by this time, you should do the following:
- Check their bar registration status.
- Contact them to arrange an interview (preferably in person or via Zoom or Google Meet).
Remember that it is normal for a lawyer to charge you for that interview (it is time they will spend with you).
To make the best use of your time, bring with you all the information you will need (you can find a list in my post on the basics of estate planning) and additional supporting documents.
Here are some questions you can ask them to help you form a good opinion about which lawyer is right for you:
- Where were you educated?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- What forms of communication will use with me?
- Will the communication be directly with you or do you have a paralegal who will serve as an intermediary?
- Will you send updates on the progress of my plan or do I need to request them in order to access that information?
- Do you have additional estate planning oriented certifications?
- What is the payment method used and the fee you use?
- Are there any hidden charges that the specified fee does not include? Please list them.
REMEMBER: The purpose of the interviews is to find the best lawyer to conduct your Estate Planning.
In addition to the information you are given, always trust your instincts. If you are comfortable with your attorney, communication and the successful development of your plan will be more likely to be executed properly.
4. Observe whether or not the attorney asks you questions during the interview.
Each client is a separate universe, with very different family situations from one another, and that is why estate planning is a very personal process.
A good estate planning lawyer should spend time getting to know each client in detail and should ask questions about your current status and the status of your estate.
Keep notes about the questions your attorney candidate asks you. If you are not interested in knowing in depth about your family, estate, potential beneficiaries, health problems and other issues that may be important to the creation of the estate plan, it is best to disregard them because you will not do a good job.
5. Is the lawyer’s focus estate planning?
It is normal to find that most lawyers say they can do Estate Planning, and it is possible that some of them do a good job there, but the question you should ask to him is: Do you dedicate yourself almost exclusively to this area of law?
Just as there are doctors and other professionals with specializations in specific areas, there are lawyers who handle cases on any subject, and there are also those who specialize in specific areas of law (such as estate planning).
What are the advantages of this? It is very likely that a lawyer who is focused in that area will be aware of the latest changes in the law and the relevant issues. Another advantage is that with their knowledge and experience, they are likely to be able to correctly identify future problem areas if estate planning is not done well.
6. To always keep in mind: Reputation and cost of the lawyer
Although thanks to the Internet, viewing and corroborating the authenticity of attorney reviews is an easy and quite useful task, don’t forget that word of mouth is an effective and close way to find out if a lawyer is trustworthy.
A good percentage of experienced estate planning and wills attorneys are well known in the communities in which they do their work, you can find the right one by asking family members, co-workers or friends for someone they recommend (and of course, who specializes in what you need).
It is also a good idea to ask the lawyer for references from past (or current) clients and evaluate with one or two at random, if the service provided has been up to what you have been offered.
Now, the cost of an estate planning attorney can vary quite a bit, depending on his or her experience and style of work.
It is essential that everything concerning fees and associated costs be as clear as possible so that you are not faced with bills in the future that you cannot pay, causing you financial inconvenience.
Keep in mind that an estate plan can (and should) be updated frequently, so you should ask your attorney what the cost of this is and how best to handle such updates before you sign any contract or agreement with them.
7. You can also use online estate planning services.
If you decide – after interviews and recommendations – that none of the potential candidates are a good fit for you, you could use an online service to create your estate plan.
This type of service will allow you to create an excellent plan that will meet your estate planning needs, giving you peace of mind knowing that you and your legacy will be protected.
However, my recommendation is you take some time to look for a specialized attorney and create a professional relationship that will last for years, it is better in terms of trust, security in the service developed and even in the economic aspect of that hiring.