1. Do You Feel Comfortable With This Attorney?
This is a personal question to keep in mind, while looking for the perfect estate-planning attorney. The estate-planning attorney needs you to feel comfortable. So comfortable, that you readily share all the skeletons in your closet. If you cannot sit down and have a beer, wine, or macchiato with this person, then look for a different attorney.
2. Is The Attorney A Certified Specialist In Estate Planning, Probate And Trust Law By The California State Bar Board Of Legal Specialization?
There are many good attorneys that do not carry this designation. However, knowing that your attorney has the specialized expertise, and that they jumped through all the hoops to obtain this designation typically indicates, “They know their stuff.” When I am looking for a doctor, I cannot wade through all the nuances of what makes a good doctor. I do not have a pulse on the internal opinions of what certain doctors really think of their colleagues’ abilities. Therefore, I rely on designations and credentials, it provides at a minimum a recognized level of competence. The same is true in for attorneys.
3. What Percent Of Estate Planning Comprises The Attorney’s Practice?
I like to see 50% – 75%. Generally, you want an attorney that practices solely in this area of law. Not an attorney that does a little criminal law, a little family law, a little bankruptcy…you get my point. However, I believe you are a much better estate planner if your practice does not stick to 100% estate planning. An attorney that has probate experience, trust administration experience and trust or probate litigation has a very different perspective. They see the back-end of the planning world and the pitfalls. I believe these attorneys provide a fuller perspective. Without this experience, estate planners are often unable to articulate the nuts and bolts of how the trust will work.
I had originally created a top ten list, and while there are many questions to ask before settling on an estate-planning attorney, I really felt that there was no need to ask any further questions if the answers to the above top three were not Yes.