Making the decision to finally sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss your wishes can be a daunting prospect. Concerns about cost should not address stress to the process. In this article, we discuss four tips that consumers should take into consideration to maximize their value and keep costs down.
Tip #1. Talk About the Fees Up Front
Most estate planning attorneys offer a free, no-obligation phone consultation. Use this opportunity to discuss the attorney’s fees in general as well as what he anticipates the fee for your estate plan to be. Most estate attorneys charge a flat fee for their work, so be sure to discuss what that is and if there are any other potential fees. If he or she charges by the hour, for instance, inquire further about the rate and get an idea of how long the process will take.
Tip #2: Know What You Need
Before you meet with an attorney, it pays to educate yourself on what you need in your estate plan. Most estate plans consist of a last will and testament, health care proxy, power of attorney, and appointment of agent to control disposition of remains. Some estate plans also include living trusts. It helps to understand what each document accomplishes and why it may be necessary in your estate. Sometimes clients have perfectly satisfactory documents such as wills or health care proxies already set up and may not need new ones. Other times, specifically with powers of attorney, a new draft is highly recommended. Understanding these documents will also help you discuss your needs in more detail with your attorney.
Tip #3: Hire the Right Attorney
Not all estate planning attorneys are created equal, and it doesn’t make sense to hire someone just because they are the cheapest. Look for value by seeking out an experienced and competent estate planning attorney who charges reasonably for the work. Get recommendations from friends, family or colleagues you trust. And don’t just take their word for it -- it’s best to read reviews before making the hiring decision. Hiring an attorney who concentrates in estate planning will not necessarily mean that you paid the least, but it will mean that you are being served by someone who understands the issues and can ask the right questions.
Tip #4: Get it in Writing
Assuming you are ready to proceed, make sure that you have a written retainer agreement which specifies the work being performed and the price being charged, including any potential extras like filing fees. The agreement should be signed by both you and your attorney. Doing so prevents any misunderstandings and surprise charges, and your attorney should have no reason not to prepare and sign such an agreement.
Roman Aminov, Esq. is a trusts and estates attorney concentrating in estate planning, elder law, and probate. He is experienced in the drafting of wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies, and trusts of all types. Contact Roman Aminov at (347)ROMAN-85 for a free consultation.