Dec 19, 2013 Choosing the Right Attorney

We’ve all heard them before, the quick witted and hilarious lawyer quip. I remember graduating from law school and receiving an email from my proud father with a large attachment containing a list of these entertaining jabs. I never felt so loved. Notwithstanding how much truth may or may not exist within these oft quoted statements, the attorney’s role in society is still be very important, especially when it comes to estate planning matters.

In theory, it’s possible for anyone to draft a last will and testament or power of attorney, but that doesn’t mean they should. It is common for these “homemade” estate plans to be declared invalid by the courts because they don’t meet certain state statutory requirements. And even if they do meet those requirements, they often don’t accomplish what the drafter wants because of ambiguities and other deficiencies. Thus, when considering drafting any estate planning document leave it to the professionals. The following is a list of factors to consider when choosing the right attorney:

1. Specialty.
Does the attorney specialize in estate planning? An attorney that specializes in criminal law or worker’s compensation may not be the best choice to draft your last will and testament or trust. Although they may be extremely competent in their particular fields of practice, they probably aren’t familiar with the nuances and issues common to estate planning. Therefore, seek an attorney who specializes in or is at least familiar with estate planning matters. A simple yellow page or internet search will identify several estate planning attorneys in your area.

2. Experience.
How much experience does the attorney have? It is probably safe to say an attorney who has practiced for 20 years knows a little bit more than the attorney who just passed the bar exam. This is common sense. Although a young attorney may be qualified to draft a simple will, they may not be competent enough to draft a complex estate plan. When contacting estate planning attorneys specifically ask them how much experience they have drafting estate planning documents.

3. Fees.
How much will it cost? Cost is a major factor when considering your estate plan. Many people put off getting an estate plan because they think they can’t afford it. This is simply not true. The fact is, you can’t afford not to get an estate plan.
Attorneys generally charge using one of two methods: (1) Flat Fee, or (2) An Hourly Rate. When drafting a simple estate plan a flat fee is generally used; however, when the estate plan is fairly complex the attorney will likely charge on an hourly basis. Regardless of how the fees are collected, it is important to ask around and find out what attorneys in your area are charging.

Finding the right attorney can seem like a difficult task, but don’t get discouraged. Taking into account the attorney’s specialty, experience, and fees will help you find the perfect fit.

The opinions expressed in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Leonard Rickey Investment Advisors, P.L.L.C, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. Leonard Rickey Investment Advisors, P.L.L.C., is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, we recommend you see a licensed attorney to answer any legal questions you may have.

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