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Your Financial Life

Top Five Issues to Consider When Hiring an Attorney

4 minute read time

Here are 5 things you should think about and keep top of mind when looking to hire an attorney. From experience to reviews, feel confident you are making the correct decision for you and your loved ones.

Everyone should have an estate plan. If not, your state has default estate plans in place through their statutory rules. These rules may not be what you would wish upon your death. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should hire an experienced estate planning attorney to develop an estate plan that is customized to meet your specific needs.

A properly drafted estate plan can protect your beneficiaries, protect your assets from unforeseen creditors, and may reduce estate taxes and avoid probate. Hiring a qualified estate planning attorney ensures your documents are written in accordance with your state's laws and provides the customization that is right for your circumstances.

#1 – Where to start

Most estate attorneys work closely with bankers, financial advisors, and accountants. Your Johnson Financial Group relationship manager will be able to provide you with several referrals of qualified estate planning attorneys. Your relationship manager, your attorney and your accountant should work closely together, acting as your team of advisors, and ensuring each one has your complete financial picture.

#2 – What to look for

You will want to work with someone who is willing to take the time to get to know you, understand what is important to you, and can explain the impact of your decisions in an easy to understand way.

  • Experience: Ideally, you want to hire someone who has experience handling your specific issues.
  • Opportunity to Review: Your attorney should allow you to review the documents, to ensure they match your wishes.
  • A 5 Year Review: We recommend reviewing your estate plan every 5 years, unless there is a material change in laws or a life changing event occurs. This review will ensure all documentation is up to date, which becomes important when you sell your home, change jobs, or have major changes in your life such as a death of a beneficiary, marriage, divorce, etc. You'll have peace of mind knowing you have an estate plan in place.
  • Do they offer a fixed price for their work, or charge by the hour? This is an important question. Depending on the situation, some attorneys may offer a blend of a fixed amount, followed by an hourly fee for additional services. You need to understand how fees will be charged to you.

#3 – Your total assets

An experienced estate planning attorney will consider your total assets in order to best advise you as to whether a simple will or a trust for more complex estate planning needs is warranted. As part of a complete estate plan, your attorney will draft a will, a trust, a power of attorney for healthcare, and a power of attorney for property, as well as other documents as needed.

#4 – Are you a business owner?

If you are a business owner, transferring ownership is complicated. Upon your death, you want to be sure that all of your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Likewise, if you are transferring ownership, you will want to ensure a smooth succession. The services of an attorney experienced in business succession planning will be key to ensuring your plan complies with your wishes and meets all legal requirements.

#5 – Life is complicated

Your situation is not the same as everyone else's. If you are in a second marriage, own property in more than one state, have minor children, disabled children, no children, or recently lost a spouse, among other factors, your situation requires the skills of a professional, experienced estate planning attorney to create an estate plan that is right for you.

For more information, please contact your Johnson Financial Group relationship manager.