Estate planning attorneys work with clients as they draft wills, trusts, power of attorney documents and other legal documents necessary to settle your estate and take care of the people left behind after you die. Accidental oversights, and mistakes can compound your family’s burden when they are least able to deal with it. This means it is essential to find the best estate planning attorney to assist you through the process. So, what traits do the best estate planning attorneys have in common?
The soap operas featuring attorneys who name themselves heirs are, fortunately, mostly fictional. However, there are lawyers who lack integrity. If you hire an inexperienced attorney to act as the executor of the estate, their lack of knowledge could lead to additional billable hours, which can cost your family money. The best estate lawyers have a lot of experience and a reputation for integrity.
An inability to speak clearly and explain matters to a client may mean you don’t understand what they are doing and what you’re signing. This erodes trust between client and attorney. An attorney who can and will take the time to explain complex legal matters puts clients at ease. It also ensures that the client knows the lawyer understands what they want done, and that it can be achievable. Being both clear and concise is a bonus, since it saves everyone precious, billable time.
When the habit of clear, concise communications is translated into their writing style, the simple, straightforward will, power of attorney or trust, means there is less room for errors and opportunities for someone to fight the plan you set forth.
Experience in Estate Planning
We cannot overstate the value of having experienced estate planning attorneys working with you. You don’t want to fill out a will based on your CPA’s advice. While they may give you good advice on handling estate taxes, they’re not competent to give you legal advice so that young heirs or special needs dependents are taken care of when you’re no longer around. Your lawyer friend may be able to give you advice on filling out a basic will when you do not have much in terms of assets or liabilities. But only an estate planning expert can help you set up a full estate plan so that your business can be passed down to an heir without having to sell everything else in the estate. Estate planning is necessary to properly divide assets between multiple prior partners or hold money until a relative has gotten their life together. Estate planning should be done to minimize the effort your family has to go through upon your passing.
A common mistake in estate planning is a failure to do due diligence. It can take the form of setting up a trust but failing to move assets into the trust. Now the trust is unfunded and unusable. It can take the form of failing to keep key documents up to date. A good estate plan will include all of your children and grandchildren, though it can be worded such that the addition of another heir or two can be accounted for. Estate plans can be completely derailed when you don’t update the legal documents after divorce, remarriage, or the death of a major heir. For example, a widow whose husband died before her may still have a will naming him as the main beneficiary. If she doesn’t update the will, the beneficiaries of her retirement plan, and other documents, the courts may get involved to determine how her property is divided among his heirs – though she may not want children of his first wife to get anything.
You want to update your legal documents as situations change. A good estate planner will know that the will or medical power of attorney you drafted in another state is no longer valid. They’ll also advise you when the law itself has changed, forcing the need for revisions to your estate plan documents.
The best estate planning lawyers are those that will do everything necessary to create a solid estate plan and see it through. They can be trusted to do what needs to be done without missing a critical detail. The end result is as smooth of a legal transition as possible for your family after you yourself have passed on. And that’s the best thing you can give your family during this difficult time.