1. Ask for Referrals to an Estate Planning Attorney in Your Area
Are you looking for your very first estate planning attorney or need to find a new one because you have recently divorced? If so, then ask local family members, neighbors, business contacts, or your accountant, banker and/or financial advisor for referrals to an estate planning attorney in your area. Chances are you will get responses from more than one person and will be able to contact each attorney to determine which one will be able to help you achieve your estate planning goals.
Are you looking for a new estate planning attorney because you have moved to a new state? Then the first place to check is with your current estate planning attorney because chances are he or she will know one or more estate planning attorneys who practice in your new state of residence. If not, then as above, ask any local family members, new neighbors, new business contacts, or your new accountant, banker and/or financial advisor for referrals to an estate planning attorney in your area since chances are one or more of them will be able to give you a referral.
2. Find an Estate Planning Attorney Who Knows the Right Laws
Your estate planning attorney's credentials are essential to insuring that your will, trust, power of attorney, or advance medical directive will work as you expect it to in your state of residence as well as in any other state where you own real estate. Therefore, it is important to find out if the prospective estate planning attorney is licensed to practice law in your state and in any other state where you own real estate. In fact, if you do own real estate in different states, then chances are you will need to consult with an estate planning attorney in each state since the laws governing wills, trusts, powers of attorney advance health care directives and real estate vary greatly from state to state.
3. Ask for Permission to Speak with Satisfied Clients
It still surprises me how few prospective clients ask to speak with satisfied clients. Nothing speaks louder than the words of a satisfied client, so ask your list of prospective estate planning attorneys to provide you with at least two satisfied clients you can contact. While of course the attorney is only going to give you the names of happy clients, this will certainly put the attorney on the spot to treat you in the same way that he or she treated the happy clients.
Alternatively, check out the prospective estate planning attorney's website since he or she may have testimonials from satisfied clients posted right on the website.
4. Other Things to Consider
Other things you may want to consider include:
- The prospective estate planning attorney's office locations - This may or may not be an important factor. Note that I have worked with many clients whom I have never actually met in person but assisted via telephone, email, fax and overnight mail.
- The prospective estate planning attorney's age - While in many cases an older attorney may have more experience, a younger attorney with a few years of estate planning planning experience under his or her belt may be a good choice if you are looking for someone who will be there when the time comes to settle your estate or trust.
- The prospective estate planning attorney's gender - You may be more comfortable choosing an estate planning attorney of one gender or another for no reason other than you are just more comfortable, but keep in mind that excellence in legal assistance knows no gender.
- The prospective estate planning attorney's native culture - Just like choosing gender, you may want to consider a prospective estate planning attorney's native culture because if it is similar to yours, then the attorney will be able to understand the cultural factors that will influence your estate planning goals and ultimate choices that you do make. But as with an attorney's gender, it is important to note that excellent estate planning attorneys come from all cultures.