By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
June 27, 2019
Hiring a Florida Estate Planning Attorney: Questions to Ask
Creating an estate plan is rarely a simple process – this is why people turn to estate planning attorneys in the first place. But while an attorney can serve as a knowledgeable guide, you can (and should) still take an active role in making decisions.
Don’t let your attorney ask all the questions in your first meeting. Prepare a list of questions that you can ask in order to learn more about your next steps and your options. If this is your first consultation with your attorney, you can use these questions to make sure you are making the right choice and don’t need to look for a second opinion.
How Does Payment Work? Will Additional Services Come With Additional Fees?
Surprise fees benefit no one; they will take more money out of your pocket and can possibly strain your relationship with your attorney. Know how much you will be paying them, when you will need to pay it, and if/when any additional fees will come up.
Attorneys may offer different packages with additional services to help protect your assets. Know what services are available so you can start creating the most comprehensive plan immediately.
What Alternative Tools Can I Use, and Why Are They Less Suited for My Needs?
In recent years, there are a number of sites and tools that have started popping up designed to help you handle legal matters on your own. For example, LegalZoom.
The problem with these types of services and the one-size-fits-all forms that they make available to people is that legal matters typically aren’t one-size-fits-all situations. This is particularly true of estates, which can be full of complicated relationship dynamics and financial issues that do not fit the generic mold.
You want to work with an experienced attorney who understands how to craft estate documents using the correct legal language. Beyond this, they can tell you if there is a different way to handle particular types of estate matters that will be friendlier to you and/or your loved ones – that’s something no form letter can do.
What Information Will You Need to Create My Estate Plan?
Estate plans should cover all of your assets, big and small. This means that your estate planning attorney will need access to information about all of those assets. You may be asked to bring certain documents to the first meeting — such as a list of assets (including securities, property, insurance policies, and so on) — so your attorney gets a picture of your current financial situation.
Find out what documentation they will need to continue the process. Some people feel uncomfortable sharing their financial information. But remember, your attorney needs certain information to do their job to the best of their ability. With an incomplete understanding of your finances, family situation, or goals, they will create an incomplete estate plan for you. It’s in your best interest to provide the requested information. In the end, you’ll have a stronger estate plan because of it.
Don’t be afraid to ask exactly what documentation they will need and why they need it. Understanding the reasons the information is required can help you feel more comfortable providing it.
What Risks or Threats Do I Face?
In general, you want to keep all surprises down to a minimum. Ask your attorney to be upfront about risks and threats to your estate plan. When are you diving into tricky waters? What can be done to minimize risk?
It’s a simple rule: the more you know, the better off your plan will be. Again, it is important that your attorney educate you as they guide you through the process of creating an effective estate plan. You and your attorney are a team. Transparency and open communication are key to building a strong team that succeeds in reaching all of your financial goals.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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