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How to Find a Good Estate Planning Attorney: 9 Tips from a Professional Estate Planning Attorney

How to Find a Good Estate Planning Attorney: 9 Tips From a Professional Estate Planning Attorney

Do you need an estate planning lawyer? Well, yes, you do. Although you can’t control when you will die, estate planning helps you control the effect your death will have on your heirs.

Without one, there is no guarantee that they won’t fall into a bitter dispute over the distribution of your assets. So take advantage of the following tips on how to find a good estate planning attorney.

Ask the Attorneys About Their Specialization

Passing the bar exam entitles a lawyer to practice in almost any area of law. Don’t settle for a “jack of all trades” lawyer who dabbles in many areas but develops expertise in none. California offers a legal specialization qualification in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law. At least one of the firm’s attorneys should possess this specialization.

Get a Referral from an Attorney or Other Professional

You may have personal acquaintances or other people you trust who are attorneys, financial advisors, or CPAs. In that case, they are likely to know a good estate planning attorney they can introduce to you. Likewise, if you have friends who have recently used estate planning attorneys, seek referrals from them.

Don’t Rely on Bar Association Referral Hotlines

Membership in a bar association directory will tell you that the lawyer is a good standing member of the bar association and, perhaps, that California has licensed the lawyer in a particular specialty. Other than that, however, these directories tell you nothing about the quality of a lawyer’s work because they don’t screen for such details.

Use Only Verified Attorney Directories

The Internet is crowded with “lawyer directories” of dubious reliability. Many of them offer places in their directories in exchange for a fee, which renders them nothing more than advertisers. Even the Better Business Bureau does this. Reputable legal directories include Martindale-Hubbell and www.avvo.com.

Don’t Be Impressed by Slogans

Everybody’s got a slogan: “A Friend in Need” or “Nobody Messes With Our Clients” sounds nice, but they won’t get you results. Even “We deliver results, not slogans” is a slogan. So ignore them and concentrate on evaluating the lawyer’s actual competence and commitment.

Inquire About Attorney’s Fees

The cheapest attorney is not necessarily the best value, and neither is the most expensive attorney necessarily the best one. Find out whether the attorney offers a free initial consultation. Does the attorney charge by the hour, or does a flat fee apply? Read the engagement letter carefully before you sign it to avoid a nasty surprise later.

Find Out Whether the Attorney Carries Malpractice Insurance

Doctors aren’t the only professionals you can sue for malpractice. You can sue lawyers too. However, a lawyer possessing malpractice insurance is no indication they expect a lawsuit for their performance. Instead, it means your lawyer can pay a legal malpractice claim if it comes to that.

What Is the Attorney’s Law School Record?

The lawyer’s performance in law school is more important than the prestige of the law school. For example, did the attorney win any special awards in law school? It also matters whether the attorney graduated from a law school in Northern California.

What Professional Organizations Is the Attorney a Member of?

Since some professional associations are highly competitive, membership in one of these associations is significant. Has your attorney been named a Super Lawyer, for example? How many times? Has the firm been called a “Best Law Firm” in estate planning by US News and World Report? Many firms include a list of professional organizations on their website.

You Can’t Take It with You

You can’t take it with you, and there is no way to know with absolute certainty when you will die. For these reasons, you need to know how to find an estate planning lawyer ー and the time to act is now. The California estate planning lawyers at Barr & Douds can help you create an estate plan that reflects your individual needs, desires, and priorities.

Contact us online or by telephone at (925) 660-7544.

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