Questions to ask your Estate Planning Attorney
Like visiting a surgeon, many people find estate planning stressful. If you need someone to perform a relatively complex surgery to treat your medical problem, you will do your due diligence.
You may ask friends, family, or other healthcare providers for their recommendations, read reviews online, and even interview a surgeon or two to ensure a good fit.
You should do the same with your estate attorney.
Here are some questions to explore with your perspective estate attorney to learn more about them as a professional and the estate planning process.
Why did your attorney choose to specialize in Estate Planning?
Answer: Many people choose specialties, whether in law or medicine, based on personal experiences. Estate planning is a highly personal area of law.
You will discuss your financial plans with your estate attorney and your hopes, dreams, and goals for the future.
Ask your estate attorney about their career path. Look for attorneys who can clearly articulate how their interest in estate planning developed, how they chose their specialty, and how their career has progressed thus far.
Look for an attorney who is passionate about the work they do and why they chose to do this work.
What information will your estate attorney need from you?
Answers: Estate planning requires that you and your estate attorney have an open and honest relationship. You will need to provide complete and accurate information about your finances, future plans, and goals.
If you hold back key information, such as accounts and property you own, debts or other financial obligations, or the existence of family members or potential heirs, it can completely derail your estate plan.
Your estate attorney will ask questions about many aspects of your life and will probably need to see supporting documentation.
This documentation may include copies of deeds, account statements, and insurance policies.
When choosing your estate attorney, you must select a professional with whom you are comfortable sharing this information.
Key People, who need to be involved in your Estate Planning?
Answer: Ask your estate attorney about their process. You will want to know who will have access to your highly sensitive information.
Your estate attorney may only have one or two staff members who have access to your information.
Larger practices may have processes that require that you will discuss and disclose your private information to multiple people who have different roles in the process.
If you are married, ask how involved the process will be for your spouse. Many laws require that married people disclose estate planning information to their spouses.
Children are generally not involved, and in some cases, it is better if they are not, especially if adult children have strong opinions or do not get along.
Do you want your children to be involved in the decision-making process? Many people do not and would prefer to complete the estate planning process first and then give their adult children an overview of what the estate plan looks like and how it will work.
Involving your children in the estate planning process may be an invitation for one or another of them to challenge your estate plan in the future.
They may say that one of the more influential or vocal children had undue influence while you were making your plans.
Beyond your spouse and children, there are a few other people you may want to have on your estate planning team, including:
- Trusted Advisors
- Financial planner
- Certified public accountant (CPA)
- Insurance agent
These people may have information that will make the estate planning process go more smoothly.
One example of how your advisors and your estate planning attorney can coordinate to make the estate planning process easier for you is to coordinate the legal documents and the beneficiary designations on your accounts and insurance policies.
Working together, these professionals can ensure that your beneficiary designations are current and comprehensive.
Your CPA and estate attorney can discuss your options regarding income, estate and gift taxes, and the complex interplay between them.
Your tax savings will likely be optimized when everyone has up-to-date and complete information, netting you the largest tax savings.
You can work with your estate attorney to determine who has access to your estate information and how much information will be divulged to them.
Contact The Katzner Law Group
We welcome a call if you have questions about your estate planning process. We are happy to provide answers about our professional background, process, and the level of services we offer.
We know that you need this information to determine whether we are a good fit for you and your needs.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in moving forward with the estate planning process.