The Red Flags of Estate Planning – How to Select The Right Estate Planning Attorney

For any number of reasons, individuals and families come to a point in their life when they are either advised to put an estate plan in place or are recommended to consult with a lawyer on the matter. Many people simply go to whatever attorney or firm they are referred without doing any research on their own. Unfortunately, there are many lawyers out there who will set clients up with an “estate plan” even though those attorneys may be general practitioners or even focus on a completely different field other than estate planning. Knowing how to spot these types of “red flags” will help you in choosing the appropriate attorney for your estate planning needs and can end us saving you and your family thousands of dollars in the long-run.
Non-Licensed Attorneys – When making an estate plan, it is essential to seek proper legal advice. Only a licensed attorney can give you advice on how to best protect your assets from taxes, probate and the costs of long-term care. Unfortunately, many non-lawyers and websites readily give out legal advice. If a non-lawyer recommends what type of documents or plan you should have in place, that person is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Relying on those people who do not have the proper legal education can be disastrous. If you find yourself dealing with non-lawyers who are giving legal advice, you should seriously consider consulting independent legal counsel.One-Size-Fits-All Planning – Any general practitioner or legal document website can provide you with a basic and non-customized Last Will & Testament for a nominal cost. In addition, they may also offer some type of trust instrument. Unfortunately, these documents are usually composed entirely of boilerplate language and fail to accommodate any individual issues. You simply plug in your name and general information and perhaps hope for the best. Every family and situation is unique and each estate plan must be customized to account for the differences. Attorneys who truly focus in estate planning can provide a properly customized plan which specifically addresses your needs and goals based on where you are in life.Formality – There are a number of aspects of a legal relationship you should look for as a part of your litmus testing of prospective estate planning attorneys. For example, be wary if a potential lawyer fails to memorialize his representation. A formal engagement letter is the best way to document the services which will be provided, the cost of the services, and the timeframe of the representation. Additionally, you should expect to disclose what may seem like an unreasonably large amount of information to a qualified estate planning attorney. Any attorney who glosses over the intricate details of your particular situation should be avoided. Your lawyer-client relationship should reflect a high degree of professionalism and formality; don’t settle for anything less.What is NOT in the Plan – Every estate planning attorney will make sure you know what exactly is in the plan they are recommending to you. Unfortunately, what a number of professionals forget to do is inform you what is NOT included. What isn’t in your plan may actually be just as important as what is included. There are a number of pieces in the estate planning puzzle. To solve that puzzle, you should anticipate that your estate planning attorney will work in conjunction with other professionals such as financial planners, accountants and insurance agents to best protect the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate. Finding out what is missing or not yet included in your protection plan is essential. Make sure your estate planning attorney reveals what is not in the plan instead of simply selling you some basic documents that may not fully protect you, your family or your assets.

Many people start looking for an estate planning attorney without researching and are unaware of the “red flags”. Selecting the right attorney for the job can have a financial and emotional impact down the road. Before hiring an estate planning attorney, make sure you take the time to investigate your options and be sure to talk to a professional who has experience and focuses in Asset Protection and Estate Planning. For more details about any of the information discussed, please attend one of our many FREE events all over the Greater Columbus area or contact us to schedule a COMPLIMENTARY one hour consultation at our office in Dublin, Ohio.

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