I was recently asked what makes a good estate planning lawyer. It took me a minute to think of a good response because, while I know what makes a quality estate planning lawyer, conveying that to people who have never had any experience dealing with estate planning or probate lawyers is not simple. The point of this blog post is to give you a list of things to think and ask about when you’re trying to find a quality estate planning attorney.
Have you ever seen an advertisement for an attorney that states that he or she does criminal, traffic, bankruptcy, divorce and wills and trusts? To be honest, I cringe a little when I see it. It isn’t because someone can’t be qualified to practice in all of those areas, but it’s pretty likely that you’re not hiring someone who focuses on estate planning and probate. While it’s great to cast out a broad net when advertising, it seems pretty obvious to me that you’d want to hire someone who focuses on a few aspects of the law as opposed to all of them. Why won’t you see a page on my site or a brochure at my office for bankruptcy, criminal defense or personal injury law? I don’t focus on those areas of the law.
Don’t you also want to hire someone who promotes his or her best skill set? If I asked you to list your strengths, are you going to list your best qualities last? Probably not. If you’re thinking about hiring an attorney that advertises for estate planning as an afterthought, you may want to reconsider.
In order to maintain a law license in MO, an attorney needs to have at least 15 CLE credits. While 2 of them must be related to ethics and ethical practices, the rest can be on any area of law the attorney chooses. Aside from my ethics requirement, EVERY CLE credit from my previous year was directly related to estate planning and/or probate practice. I attend estate planning and probate seminars for 2 reasons: to make sure that I’m keeping up with the latest and greatest practices and procedures, and because I feel that I owe it to my clients to assist them with their estate planning and probate needs in the best way that I can.
If you’re thinking about hiring an estate planning or probate lawyer, feel free to ask him or her how many CLE seminars he or she attended concerning estate planning or probate law in the past few years.
Why do I think that an estate planning attorney should also practice probate administration? Because in order for your will to be worth more than the paper it was printed on, it has to be admitted to a probate court within 1 year from your date of death. An attorney who is willing to sell you a will but not willing to assist your loved ones when the time comes to maneuver through the probate process is only doing half of the job. In my opinion, that would be like an auto mechanic installing new brakes on your car and then telling you to go see a different mechanic if they ever go bad.
If you’re in need of an estate planning or probate attorney, make sure you hire someone who has assisted a client through both processes. I know that the will I make for you works because I’ve had my wills admitted through the entire probate administration process.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please don’t hesitate to contact my office to see what I can do for you.