Estate planning is all about preparing for the future; specifically, it is about getting ready for the eventuality of your death, and the possibility of physical or mental incapacitation. An estate planning attorney will help you clarify your end-of-life wishes, ensure that your loved ones are taken care of, and advise on issues related to the guardianship of your minor children.
Naturally, it is important to find an estate planning attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable. As you interview potential estate planning lawyers, there are a number of factors worth bearing in mind.
What Should You Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney?
A Practice Focused on Estate Planning and Family Law
Estate planning laws can sometimes be complex, and it is important to find an attorney who understands them inside and out. Generally, this means looking for a specialist in the field.
Consider it this way: If you needed brain surgery, you would likely prefer a surgeon who specializes in the brain and in neurological issues. You would be less comfortable working with a generalist, or with a surgeon whose focus is on the heart or the lungs. You would prefer a surgeon who has ample experience working with the brain.
In much the same way, estate planning concerns are better left to specialists in the field, not to attorneys whose practice is primarily focused on criminal defense, or on commercial litigation. Whenever possible, seek an attorney whose practice is devoted to serving the needs of families.
Knowledge of State Laws Regarding Estate Planning
Estate planning laws can vary a great deal from one state to the next. For this reason, it is usually best to work with an estate planning attorney who has deep roots in their community, and whose practice serves the needs of local individuals and families.
Simply put, residents of Kentucky are better off working with an attorney who has a long track record serving in the state. A local, Kentucky attorney is much more likely to understand the ins and outs of state laws and guidelines, compared with a nationwide firm, which might miss out on state-specific subtleties.
This is crucial because if an estate plan is drafted in a way that does not comply with state law, it could be invalidated by the courts. This would mean your wishes are not carried out, and it could also entail some legal hassles and headaches for the loved ones who survive you.
A Calming, Trustworthy, and Reassuring Presence
Estate planning requires you to talk and think about your own mortality, something that can be uncomfortable. It also requires being candid about some of your most intimate and deeply held wishes, including your wishes with regard to the guardianship of your children, your preferences for end-of-life support, and more.
As such, it is important to find an attorney who inspires confidence and trust. It should be someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing these highly personal, at times deeply private wishes and concerns.
When seeking an estate planning attorney, be sure to look for practices that offer you a safe space to talk, and that emphasize privacy and confidentiality. Also, be attentive to the friendliness and competence of the attorneys. If you do not like the way a lawyer communicates, or if the lawyer does not inspire your confidence, that is reason enough to look for legal assistance elsewhere.
A Range of Estate Planning Solutions
Estate planning looks different from one person to the next and can vary depending on several different factors:
- Your personal beliefs, values, and wishes
- Any special needs present in your family
- The size of your estate and value of your assets
- Family dynamics (divorce, remarriage, blended families, etc.)
The implication is that estate planning is never one-size-fits-all. Look for an estate planning attorney who will listen carefully to your needs and wishes and provide you with a range of individualized estate planning solutions. For example, an estate planning attorney should be prepared to talk with you about drafting a will, but also about using different kinds of trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, and more.
Transparency Regarding the Cost of Services
How much can you expect to pay for the services of an estate planning lawyer? The answer may vary from one firm to the next, but the most important thing is finding an attorney who is straightforward with you about how much they charge, and when the payment is due.
For estate planning, many firms charge a flat fee for the services rendered. When interviewing firms, ask if this is the case. Make sure you clarify how much you will be charged, and what is encompassed by that fee.
Ideally, you will find an estate planning law firm that will provide you with direct and honest pricing information. Be aware of firms that seem like they are beating around the bush, or leaving the door open for a lot of “surprise” fees.
Interviewing Estate Planning Lawyers
As you seek estate planning lawyers in your area, one smart approach is to ask for personal recommendations from friends or family members. Inquire as to whether they have a local estate planning attorney they would feel comfortable recommending. Additionally, use Google to find reviews and testimonials, which can often be a useful way of gauging an attorney’s client satisfaction levels.
Often, it is wise to interview two or three different attorneys before choosing one. With that said, if you meet an attorney who immediately inspires your trust and wins your goodwill, you may decide to work with them right off the bat.
Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
For assistance with estate planning in or around Elizabethtown, Kentucky, we invite you to contact Clagett & Barnett. Our lawyers boast more than 30 years of experience working with local individuals and families, and we would love to answer any questions you have about the estate planning process.
Learn more by reaching out to our firm to set up an appointment for a consultation.