Recently, a new client came to us to discuss her mother’s estate planning, as well as concerns regarding an irrevocable trust that her dad had created for her mom. We told her, in less than 1 hour, what mom should do for her estate plan, as well as how to change the trust to minimize future income and capital gains taxes.
The client then informed us that she had previously engaged another attorney on these same matters. He’d told her that he was not sure what to do, but that he would research it and get back to her. Ultimately, he gave her the same advice that we had and then sent her an invoice for $4,000.
So, what makes a good estate planning attorney?
First, a good estate planning attorney must be able to listen to the client and understand his or her family situation and needs. They should provide advice and recommendations based upon the individual client – not their philosophy or what will make them the most money.
Second, a good estate planning attorney should be able to provide a proper recommendation to the client in a reasonably timely manner. Of course, some matters are more complex than others and will require more time. In those cases, the attorney should explain that to the client before doing the work. Transparency and trust are key.
Third, a good estate planning attorney must have an acute understanding of the law and be a great writer. Every word matters when it comes to estate law. One mistake can completely upend a document's meaning and legality. This is why not any attorney will do and why you should never attempt to draft legal documents yourself. A financial planner or a family attorney who dabbles in estate planning is not going to have the same understanding of ever-changing estate laws as an attorney who focuses exclusively on estate matters. Mistakes can lead to irreparable damage, causing severe financial and emotional stress to loved ones.
The Bottom Line
Your estate plan includes some of the most important documents in your life. They should be prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney who knows the laws and can customize an estate plan for your unique situation. At Altman & Associates, estate planning is not a side offering. Estate planning is all we do.
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