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Barney McKenna & Olmstead, P.C.
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How To Choose an Estate Planning Attorney


Choosing an estate planning attorney can be as complex as choosing any other professional.

If you are not somewhat educated about estate planning, it can be very difficult to know if the attorney is qualified.  Even if you have spent time learning about estate planning, it can still be difficult to know which attorney will be best for you and your family.

The following are suggestions in selecting an estate planning attorney who will meet the needs of your estate:

First, you must select an attorney who is qualified.  Regardless of the size of your estate or your family’s circumstances, you should strongly consider using an attorney who specializes in estate planning.  Even in a small community, there are a number of attorneys who dedicate their practices to estate planning.

Utilization of an attorney who has committed his practice to estate planning should assure you of better service at a lower price.  Because much of an attorney’s fee is based on the time it will take to complete a task, an attorney who focuses exclusively on estate planning will be more capable of completing your estate planning needs more efficiently than an attorney who only occasionally addresses estate planning issues.

Additionally, an attorney who has dedicated his practice to one area of the law is likely to be more enthusiastic about that area.  This enthusiasm will benefit you as a client because the attorney will be more willing to take the time to research a new issue unique to your family and more willing to take time to educate you about your estate plan.

Second, in addition to picking an attorney who limits his or her practice to estate planning, you should use an attorney who is willing and capable of explaining your estate plan in a manner that you can understand.  Although it can be a difficult and time-consuming task, it is critical that you understand your estate plan.  If you do not understand your estate plan, you will not be able to properly implement it.

Individuals who purchase “estate plans” at seminars are rarely properly served.  The attorney is usually not available after the seminar to properly address questions or concerns the client may have.  Seminars should be attended for educational purposes and not for the purchasing of an “estate plan.”

Third, you must select an attorney who is capable of handling your specific situation at a fee that is acceptable to you.  One of the best ways to know if an attorney is capable of handling your specific situation is to talk to other professionals involved in estate planning.  Accountants, financial planners, insurance agents, and bankers are all excellent sources to consult for estate planning attorney referrals.  Additionally, other professionals should be familiar with what range of fees the different attorneys charge.

Although I do not believe the fee for estate planning should be the main factor in selecting an estate planning attorney, it is, of course, a primary concern.  Significantly, the fee charged does not always represent the quality of the estate plan.  Many experienced and capable estate planning attorneys actually charge less for their services than less experienced and less qualified planners. 

In conclusion, there are several factors that should be considered in the selection of an estate planning attorney. After considering the items discussed in this article and after meeting with the attorney, the most important factor may just be how does the estate planning attorney make you feel when you are with him or her. You should feel comfortable and not intimidated. Most importantly, the estate planning attorney you select should make you feel that he or she is there to serve your and your family’s needs and should never act like your needs are a burden.