12 Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney BEFORE Working With Them

I often get asked, “How much does it cost to do an estate plan?”

It’s difficult to answer that question without understanding more about your family, your situation, and explaining more about our process.

If you called a contractor and said, “I want to build a house. How much will it cost?” would he be able to say right away? Not if he’s a good contractor. There are too many variables when it comes to building a house. There is no way someone could accurately quote a flat rate to build one. In the same way, the cost of an estate plan depends on the type of plan you create and the goals you are trying to accomplish.

We understand that you need to know the cost before making a decision (and we make sure ALL of our clients clearly know the cost before moving forward). However, before you start talking about cost, there are some important questions to ask the attorney first. Keep reading to learn about other vitally important factors to consider when choosing an attorney to create an effective estate plan.

​12 Questions You Should Ask an Estate Planning Attorney BEFORE Asking About Cost

  1. Do you regularly deal with estate planning?
  2. How do you define estate planning?
  3. How do you take advantage of technology?
  4. Do you approach each client as a unique individual?
  5. How can I be sure my plan will work?
  6. Will you help me have hard conversations with family members, if needed?
  7. How will you coordinate my assets with my legal plan?
  8. Will you work closely with my other advisors?
  9. How can I make sure my plan stays up-to-date?
  10. What is your record with regards to probate?
  11. What happens if something happens to you?
  12. Is your staff experienced?

Let’s Break These Questions Down…

1. “Do you regularly deal with estate planning? What other areas of practice do you have?”

We believe it’s best if an attorney focuses on estate planning. That’s why I set up our firm the way I did. I wanted a group of people dedicated ONLY to estate planning so we can create the most effective plans possible for the families we serve.

2. “How do you define estate planning? What is your counseling philosophy?”

Some attorneys see their primary role as filling in the blanks on a document. You’ll notice I use the phrase “Counselor-at-Law” after my name, and that’s important. We help guide our clients to make the best choices possible for their unique situation.

3. “How do you use technology to create customized wills and trusts?”

While it’s true you don’t want a boilerplate will (and some attorneys use technology to just fill in the blanks), there are things that technology can do to help us create better, more accurate plans for our clients.

4. “Do you have a system in place to ensure that each client is approached on an individual basis with their unique needs being addressed?”

Every family is different, and each one has challenges that make planning a highly personal process. You and your loved ones deserve a plan that takes your unique circumstances into account, properly protecting what you’ve worked so hard for.

5. “How can I be sure my plan will work the way I expect it to after I’m gone?”

It’s a dirty little secret of the industry, but many attorneys make their money after the plan they created doesn’t work properly and moves into probate.

6. “Are you capable of supporting my choices in conversations with aging parents or adult children and grandchildren if I need it?”

Some conversations around planning can be very difficult. It helps to have an experienced 3rd party to help facilitate them.

7. “How will you coordinate my assets and finances with my legal plan?”

Some attorneys help create a plan, but then don’t take the next step necessary to make sure the plan will work properly. One of the most important aspects of this is asset coordination. It’s so important, we have TWO people in our office dedicated to it.

8. “Will you work closely with my other advisors?”

In order to create the most effective plan possible, it is important that your financial advisors, CPAs, attorney, etc. work together to make sure everyone sees an accurate big picture so your plan can address everything it should.

9. “How will I keep my estate plan up to date?”

Is it up to you to call the attorney when you think changes need to be made? Or does the attorney have a system to make sure your plan stays current? Effective estate planning is not a one-and-done process. Read more about keeping your plan up to date here.

10. “What is your record with regards to probate?” What percentage of your trust-based plans wind up in probate? (Remember #5 above!)

11. “What happens if something happens to you?” Are there other attorneys who will help? Do you have a contingency plan?

12. “Do you have experienced staff to help with my planning?”

The staff will be key in your dealings with the firm, so you want them to be as top-notch as the attorney. Read about our dedicated team here.

So, what are my next steps?

If you’re dealing with a top-notch professional — one who provides quality, custom services to each and every client and who values integrity above all else — then they cannot give you an honest answer about how much it costs for an estate plan without a thorough assessment of your unique circumstances.

This is why we encourage everyone to attend our free monthly seminar, “Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started.”

Not everyone is a good fit to work with us. We tend to do things differently around here, and we want to be sure people are comfortable with ALL aspects of planning before moving forward. The more you trust us, the better educated you can become about planning, and that means we can do a better job of protecting you and your family.

If you’ve been thinking about planning, but are still hesitating, we encourage you to come to our next workshop. Just call 217-726-9200 to save yourself a spot.