While hiring any type of legal professional to handle your personal, financial, and legal affairs is a major decision, finding the right estate planning attorney is a particularly important undertaking.
Unlike criminal lawyers, personal injury attorneys, and divorce lawyers, estate planning attorneys often don’t simply represent you in one isolated case—they’re with you for the long haul. An estate planning attorney may be able to guide you through the entire estate planning process, from the initial drafting of your will to the distribution of your estate.
Throughout your lifetime, you may want your attorney to provide you counsel as questions arise, and assistance when changes to your estate plan must be made. After you pass, your spouse, children, and surviving family members may continue to seek service and legal guidance from your estate attorney.
So how do you choose the right estate planning lawyer for you and your family? To help you with this task, we’ve provided four key questions to ask a prospective estate planning attorney below.
What is your primary focus? Ideally, you’ll want an attorney who specializes in estate planning to handle your estate, rather than an lawyer with a broad practice that includes simple estate planning. Only an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with estate planning in Florida can identify all the special concerns and considerations that need to be addressed in your plan, and what documents are needed to do so. A qualified estate planning lawyer will be able to identify the planning techniques and tricks that are necessary to reduce taxes, protect your assets, and ensure your wishes are honored.
How long have you been practicing? As with any profession, experience is one of the most valuable characteristics of an estate planning lawyer. The more experienced your attorney is, the better equipped they should be to anticipate problems and minimize errors. A seasoned estate planning lawyer has worked with many clients and Florida courtrooms before, and has learned through trial and error what works best in your jurisdiction.
How do you bill your services? It’s often better to secure an estate planning attorney who charges a fixed fee, rather than one who bills you hourly. Be sure you are clear on what your lawyer’s flat fee does and does not include, and in what situations or for what services you could be charged extra. You’ll want to find an attorney who is as upfront and honest about fees as possible.
Will you be able to respond to my needs on a continuing basis? Ask your lawyer about how he or she will address your ongoing needs and how quickly you can expect your calls and emails to be returned. You may want to ask your estate planning lawyer if he or she will be able to help you with matters down the road, such as buying insurance, planning for retirement, and saving for college.
Above all, your estate plan attorney should be someone with who makes you feel comfortable, and with whom you can see yourself working closely. Your lawyer should inspire trust and confidence with his or her answers to your questions and professional demeanor.
If you are seeking a highly qualified and experienced estate planning lawyer in Florida, we hope you will consider the knowledgeable legal professionals at Winter & Associates, P.A. We’ve been helping clients with matters associated with probate administration, trust administration, guardianship administration, probate litigation, trust litigation, guardianship litigation, and estate planning for many years, and we’d be honored to have the opportunity to help you and your family meet your estate planning goals.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.