There are many qualified estate planning attorneys in Maryland, and many ways to locate them, both online and offline. But how do you choose the right one? And what should you ask them when you call for an appointment? To make this task a bit easier, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask an estate planning attorney you plan on hiring to determine whether they are a good fit for your needs and personality.
Is estate planning your primary focus?
Attorneys have different areas of practice. Some attorneys specialize exclusively in estate planning while for others it may just be one of many practice areas, along with divorce, family law, criminal law or civil litigation. If you just need a simple Will drafted, you may be fine hiring a generalist lawyer. However, if you are considering a trust, planning for a larger estate, or if you have complicated circumstances—like children from a prior marriage, special needs children or are an unmarried couple—it may be better to work with an attorney who focuses in this area. An attorney who practices primarily in estate planning is more likely to keep up with the newest techniques and changes in the law.
How long have you been working as an estate planning attorney?
Experience matters, especially in the estate planning field. For one thing, it may take years, often decades, for an attorney to see whether the Will or trust they set up for a client was the best way to distribute that client’s assets upon death. The longer your estate planning attorney has been around, the more problems they have seen, and the more potential risks they can foresee in your particular estate plan.
What happens if I need to update my Will?
Many estate planning attorneys will draft your Will or trust and move on. Of course, if you need something changed or updated, you can give them a call and it will be taken care of. But how will you know if your Will needs to be updated? A good estate planning attorney will keep up with the changes in legislation and will proactively reach out to former clients who are affected by such changes to make sure their estate plans are up to date. Look for an attorney who offers this service, especially if you are making a Will at a young age.
What is your fee structure?
Most attorneys offer simple estate planning services for a flat fee, but some may charge hourly, especially if yours is a particularly complex situation. Ask which approach your attorney prefers, so that there are no surprises. If it’s a flat fee, make sure to find out what exactly it covers and whether it’s the scope of service you are looking for. Although an attorney may not be able to give you a quote over the telephone until they actually review your situation, they should be able to give you a price before they actually start the work.
Can you help with a complicated case?
Not all estate planning situations are straightforward. The larger your estate and the more complicated your family situation, the tougher it may be to make the right decisions. In addition, the law is often confusing when it comes to non-U.S. Citizens, non-adopted stepchildren, out-of-state assets, special needs children, and other scenarios. You may be aware of some of these potential issues, or they may come as a surprise when the attorney gets to work. Either way, it’s good to ask how your attorney would handle a complicated case and whether he or she has enough time and resources to assist you.
A Bonus Question You Should Ask Yourself
After you discuss all of the above with your Maryland estate planning attorney, ask yourself this: “Do I feel comfortable working with this person?” Remember that you will need to share personal details about your assets and your family with your attorney. At the end of the day, you should choose an attorney you can trust and who will work with you and have your best interest in mind.
Ready to put these interview questions into practice? Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help you plan for you and your family’s future.