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How to Find an Estate Planning Attorney

Summary: There are certain steps you should take when choosing your estate planning attorney. This individual will be responsible for ensuring your assets are distributed per your wishes once you have passed away. There are several important steps to take when choosing the right attorney. This article outlines those steps. Estimated Read Time: 10 min

Table of Contents:

  1. What does an Estate Planning Attorney do?
  2. How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney
  3. How Much Does an Estate Planning Attorney Cost?
  4. Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Before you begin drafting the paperwork for managing your assets and planning your estate for after you have passed, it is important to understand the need for an estate planning attorney.

While many of the necessary estate planning documents can be found online, these documents must be notarized and legally binding to have any chance standing up to contests by family members once you have passed. An estate planning attorney will be the one to handle these documents, ensure they are submitted correctly and in a timely manner, and be the sole individual responsible for distributing your assets once you have passed away.

Enrolling the help of an estate planning attorney, also known as an estate planner, can help reduce the stress of estate planning and ensure your assets are distributed as you intend them to be. While you may not think your net worth allows you to need an estate planning attorney, it is vital to understand the importance of having an attorney by your side to ensure each step of the process is done correctly so there are no hiccups along the way.

Below, we review the importance of an estate planner and how to find the right attorney for your specific needs. 

What does an Estate Planning Attorney do?

Estate planning helps you create a guide for how your assets will be distributed after you have passed away. This guide will lay out exactly who will receive your assets, the amount they will receive, and any stipulations leading up to their transfer. Your estate planning attorney will facilitate the creation of this plan and will handle all of the legal documents necessary to put this plan in place.

Estate planning attorneys are well versed in all steps of the estate planning process. A seasoned attorney will understand your family structure and financial situation to help you make decisions that most accurately reflect your desires. An attorney will also ensure you receive proper documentation, review it for any uncertainties, and legally file these documents with the proper courts to gain validity.

Aside from preparing and filing documents, your estate planning attorney will also help prepare your end-of-life arrangements including your funeral, burial or cremation services, and any other special requests you may choose. Additionally, other services an estate planning attorney can help with include:

Childcare Concerns

If you have children who solely rely on you for care, it is important to set up emergency guardianship for your children after you pass. Your estate planning attorney can provide the legal documents necessary to ensure your child(ren) is taken care of when you are no longer around. This can be one of the most important parts of estate planning for individuals with dependents.

When choosing a guardian for your dependent(s), you’ll want to have a thorough conversation with the individual and their family. You should be confident in your decision and choose someone who will follow through with all of the wishes you have laid out for your dependent.

Creating Wills and Setting Up Trusts

Establishing a will and trust are important steps in the estate planning process. Your estate planning attorney can help ensure these documents are created as legally binding documents that will pave the path for your legacy once you pass.

Creating a will and trust will ensure that all of your wishes are followed through correctly and just how you intended. Wills and Trusts are complicated documents that we will discuss in further detail throughout this guide.

Designating beneficiaries

Throughout the process of creating a will and trust, you will be responsible for designating beneficiaries who will receive your assets after you die. It is important to use the help of an estate planning attorney when designating beneficiaries as you will need to ensure all steps are precisely followed to ensure they remain your legal beneficiaries.

If this process is not done correctly, the validity of a beneficiary can be contested in court by a family member who feels more deserving of your assets. Having a will contested is not an uncommon situation. More often that you may imagine, shell-shocked family members will often believe they are entitled to more than what is outlined in your will. Because of this, they will contest the validity of your will and the beneficiaries you chose to receive your assets.

Even after you have passed, your estate planning attorney will defend your will and ensure the proper dependents receive the assets they are entitled to.

Estate taxes

If you live in a state that imposes its own set of estate taxes, it is essential for your attorney to set up an account to cover these fees. This way, the burden of these costs will not fall on your children and loved ones.

Often, when gifting assets over a certain value, states will add an additional tax on those who receive the asset. This tax can be imposed either when the asset is given or if the asset is sold. Having this money set aside in a separate account will ensure your dependent does not incur this penalty as a result of being a dependent of your will.

Owed debts

If you have any outstanding debts at the time of your passing, your estate attorney can also help prepare accounts to cover those costs as well. Without these accounts in place to cover the debts, your family members or cosigner(s) on the loan will bear full responsibility of ensuring the debt is cleared. This can be a huge financial burden for your loved ones as they likely will not expect the debt to fall on their shoulders.

Regardless of the size of your estate and amount of assets, having an estate planning attorney can be useful for people of all financial backgrounds. Understanding exactly when, where, and how your assets will be dispersed often provides a sense of peace for individuals in end-of-life scenarios.

How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney

Choosing an estate planning attorney is an important task. Your estate planning attorney will be the sole person responsible for distributing your assets once you have passed. Thus, this person must be trustworthy, and a trained professional.

You’ll want to choose an attorney who specializes in estate planning and is board certified through the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils. These individuals have to go through rigorous education and pass a certification test.

Gaining referrals from family and friends who have gone through this process is also important when finding an attorney. Having an honest review from a person you trust can help make your decision easier. You may also be able to find local estate planning attorneys by doing a quick online search in your area. This way you can read reviews from former clients and gain insights on several attorneys in your area.

When choosing an estate planner, you’ll want to run through this checklist to ensure you find the perfect match for your needs.

Checklist for estate planner:

  1. Review their qualifications to ensure they are the right lawyer for your needs.
  2. Ask for recommendations from previous clients (if that information can be shared) or from their colleagues.
  3. Request a consultation to speak with the lawyer. It is important that you and your estate planner can connect on a personal and professional level.

Once you have gone through these steps with a handful of attorneys, it is time to make your decision. Your decision should be based on your comfortability with the individual whom you will choose to represent you and your assets.

How Much Does an Estate Planning Attorney Cost?

Like any legal service, estate planning is not free, and you will need to compensate your estate planning attorney for their time. The price for an estate planning attorney will depend on several factors. These factors include the area you live in and the services you require.

Depending on your location and the complexity of your estate, your lawyer may charge a flat fee of anywhere from $300 to $1,500 or more to draft your documents. However, if your attorney is working on an hourly basis, they can charge anywhere from $150 – $300 per hour.

Cost can be a huge determining factor in the attorney you ultimately choose to hire. Understanding this, many attorneys offer a free 60-minute consultation to help lay out the costs for you and allow you to ask questions to ensure the attorney will be a good fit for your estate planning needs.

Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Whether or not you need an estate planning attorney depends on your individual situation. However, there are several factors you should consider when determining if an estate planning attorney is right for you.

First, you should look at your family structure – do you have dependents who rely on you for the majority of their care? If so, it may be essential to hire an attorney to ensure your child is taken care of in the event of your death. If your child is a minor, you may have to appoint another adult to manage your assets and care for your child until they come of age to do so on their own.

Additionally, it may be essential to hire an estate planning attorney if you are not comfortable navigating the legal documents and filings necessary to set up a legal will and trust. Legal filings can be meticulous, and missing one step can diminish the validity of your document. Thus, it is important to be extremely confident and cautious throughout the process. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, it may be essential to hire an attorney who understands the legal side of estate planning to handle these documents for you.

Lastly, if you are at a heightened risk for death or incapacitation due to a chronic condition or illness, you may want to think about hiring an estate planning attorney to speed up the process. Estate planning can be time consuming. However, handing the responsibility over to an experienced attorney can ensure your documents are filed correctly and on time and allow you to have less stress and spend more quality time with your loved ones.

On the other hand, an estate planning attorney may not be necessary if everything you own is in a beneficiary-designated account like a Roth IRA or 401K. If you have one of these accounts set up and own no assets outside of them, your accounts will automatically be signed over to your appointed beneficiary once you pass.

If you have a small estate that does not require a large amount of legal documentation, you could skip the attorney and file your documents on your own. This may be your case if you have a few small retirement accounts, own a single home, or have other small assets.

Although estate planning attorneys are professionals in their field, not everyone will find their services necessary. If you decide not to enlist the help of an estate attorney, it is important to ensure you understand and follow each step of the legal process carefully to ensure your wishes will be fulfilled once you have passed.

When making the decision to hire an estate planner, it is important to weigh all of your options. Continue to the next page of our guide: “Last Will and Testament” to learn more about the estate planning process.

Sources

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. All About Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney, Hunter Kuffel. Accessed January 2024.
    https://smartasset.com/estate-planning/estate-planning-attorney
  2. How to Find the Right Estate Planning Attorney,Mcdonald Law . Accessed January 2024.
    https://mcdonaldlawfirmfl.com/how-to-find-the-right-estate-planning-attorney/
  3. How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney, Richard R. Gans and Linda A. Griffin. Accessed January 2024.
    https://www.actec.org/resource-center/video/how-to-choose-an-estate-planning-attorney/
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare educator serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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