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What should I look for in a good estate planning attorney?

Orlando, FL |

I'm beginning the process of shopping around, but don't know hot to tell if I've found a good one. Are there any awards or commendations I should be looking for to help me know?


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Attorney Answers 6

Posted

I'm not really sure how to answer your question. You asked it on a site that has attorneys rated based on a number of different criteria. I would perform a search on this site for an estate attorney in the city that in the best location for you, set-up a couple of appointments with different attorneys and chose an attorney you are comfortable with. Any attorney answering questions on this site should be capable of handling your issue.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Florida Attorney practicing in areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, and Business Law. www.ferraezlucas.com The information provided is for educational purposes and not intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney client relationship. Please contact me at adam@yourlawpro.com or call my office should you like to discuss your Florida legal matter further. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.

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Posted

The ability to listen to you and help you to understand how the law applies to your situation are far more important than most awards and commendations. The best attorney for YOU is the one that can clearly explain your options to you, seems comfortable and confident dealing with your questions, and is responsive to your needs. Ask people you trust for referrals to attorneys that THEY trust.

I would also suggest that you look for an attorney whose practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate. Attorneys that claim to handle every kind of matter in the book are not as likely to be able to properly handle your estate planning.

There are a number of ratings available for attorneys, including one that Avvo posts. But the most important factor is whether or not you feel like you can work with the person and that they can do the job correctly. There are some excellent estate planning attorneys in your area that are very active participants in the Avvo community. You should have excellent results with any one of them. It also does not hurt to meet with more than one attorney and see who you feel the most comfortable with.

Best of luck to you!

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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Posted

I agree with interviewing several attorneys. I would ask the attorney what portion of their time is spent on estate planning and how many files they have completed.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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Posted

I would look for an attorney who is knowledgeable about trust funding and i swilling to help you fund your Revocable Living Trust. Another good thing to look for is an attorney with a maintenance plan and a program where they will have annual meetings each year.

To many attorneys hand you a document and that ends the relationship. You want an attorney that will make a solid plan for you and then help you put it in place and keep it running. Much like a car a good estate plan needs to have its oil changed regularly.

Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. No Tax Advice - Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment is not intended to constitute a comprehensive and complete tax consideration analysis, and may not be used by the taxpayer to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency, nor for the purpose of promoting, marketing or making recommendations to other persons on any tax-related matters.

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5 comments

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Not sure I agree 100% on the maintenance aspect. This has always struck me as a really good stream of revenue for the attorney, but not as good a deal for the client. (Unless, of course, the annual reviews are at no charge to the client, in which case, I think it is an INCREDIBLE bonus for the client and I would certainly refer them to that attorney). In other cases, the estate plan is generally fine, unless and until the client's objectives change or there is a change in circumstances. I will meet with clients as often as they like. But I generally find with most estate planning clients, they prefer to meet every 8-10 years.

Matthew Aaron Wiley

Matthew Aaron Wiley

Posted

I really disagree. The maintenance fees are usually pretty modest. I usually resign all POAs, get updates on the family, confirm all accounts are funded, and review the trust for changes to the law. It is not a profit center. I usually significantly reduce the cost to restate the trust. In the end 7 years of maintenance + a new trust roughly equals about the same price as a new trust without maintenance. I never charge full price to that type of client. The reason is simple if I see a client every year I will know them better and the trust will be more up to date and easier to draft. Trying to redo an estate plan after 10 years is pretty much like starting from scratch (sometimes harder) so discounts are not really appropriate for the work. I recommend resigning the plan about every 3 years which is supported by really significant and dramatic estate planning law changes that have occurred over the last few decades. Clients aim for 8-10 years. Usually we meet in the middle 5-7 years. Even if you make a perfect estate plan and completely fund the trust over the course of 10 years a large part of it will become unfunded and end up costing a lot more and taking a lot more time when you have to go through probate. While seeing a client every year is not always necessary you will not know if its necessary until you meet and review. Simply put Clients on maintenance programs have better estate plans and they are more effectively administered.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

This is obviously a case where reasonable minds can differ. I have VERY few clients that end up with outdated or estate plans where you need to start from scratch, even after 10 years. Maybe I am just not charging enough to amend the documents. The attorneys I know of who have maintenance programs usually charge upwards of $400 per year, which most clients are not willing to pay. Michigan has completely changed it probate code and its trust codes in two separate massive statutes over the past 15 years, and neither change rendered our estate plans ineffective or obsolete. I can see MANY advantages for the attorney with these plans. I can also see advantages for the clients, particularly those who have complicated situations and/or evolving needs. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your practices. It is by communicating with other lawyers that we all continue to monitor and improve our systems.

Matthew Aaron Wiley

Matthew Aaron Wiley

Posted

No worries. I think $400 a year is worth it as every person I have ever met has had evolving needs. To be clear I do not think that old estate plans are ineffective or obsolete. Just not as good. 10 years ago how many people put trust protectors in their trusts? Very few. Today it is common practice. That being said there are lots of great attorneys who do not use a maintenance program. A free review every couple years is also good. But make sure you choose an attorney who communicates after the document is signed (and I think James and I can both agree on that).

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Absolutely. I am sure we agree on far more than we disagree on, actually. And it is always good to get another perspective on things!

Posted

In Florida, attorneys can go through a board certification process to get certified in Wills, Trusts, and Probate law in order to call themselves a specialist in that area of law. In order to take the exam, attorneys have to have been in practice for a certain number of years, handled a certain number of probate matters, and take a very challenging exam in order to demonstrate knowledge of estate and gift taxes, probate and trust administration, general estate planning, and some litigation issues. You can search the Florida Bar website (floridabar.org) for board certified wills and trusts attorneys. That is a good place to start. If there is not one in your area that you feel comfortable with, then you should also look for an LLM designation in either tax or estate planning. An LLM is an additional law degree that shows that a lawyer has done at least one more year of additional study in tax or estate planning exclusively. That, in combination with years of practice, and how much of their practice is in estate planning, should help you find a knowledgeable and competent attorney.

Legal Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on since each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. A lawyer experienced in the subject area and licensed to practice in the jurisdiction should be consulted for legal advice. Circular 230 Disclaimer: Any information in this answer may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

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Posted

I agree with all the other attorney answers. You may be best to set up a number of in person consultations to determine which attorney you feel you will be able to trust, have a good relationship with, and one that will give you all the attention you need when you have questions. Also, since circumstances in life may change at any time, or a law may change, you will need an attorney who will be able to give you immediate assistance in updating or changing your estate plan very quickly in order to provide you with the full protection under the law.

This answer has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and it is recommended that you seek an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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