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Choosing a Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

Finding the right Estate Planning Attorney is a lot like Goldie Locks choosing the right bed—they all basically do the same thing but only one is going to feel ‘just right’.

Estate Planning is one of the most highly personalized forms of legal work. When you choose an attorney to create estate planning documents such as your Last Will & Testament, Advanced Medical Directives, and those that establish Medical and/or Financial Power of Attorney, and create Revocable and/or Irrevocable Trust accounts you’re entrusting that attorney with a great deal of power at a time when you will no longer be able to step in if something doesn’t go according to plan. In fact, it’s that attorney’s job to make sure there are no loopholes that allow for anything to go wrong in the first place.

So, how do you go about choosing an attorney who you can trust that much?

Everyone’s process is going to be a little different, just like everyone’s Estate Planning process is a little different but it all begins with the same question: What do you want?

We suggest making a list of the qualities you value the most in an attorney to start your search.

Some things to consider before you even meet with a Louisiana Will, Trust and Estate Planning attorney are:Checkout our 8 things to consider when choosing an Estate Planning Attorney infographic instead

  • Number of years an attorney has been practicing law in your local area.
    • The word local is extremely important in Louisiana as our Estate and Succession/Probate procedures and protocols vary from those in other states.
  • The percentage of an attorney’s practice that is dedicated to Estate Planning and Succession law
    • The same way you don’t want to go to a doctor who specializes in internal medicine for a broken arm, you don’t want to go to a litigation lawyer to have your Estate Planning documents drawn up.
  • Awards and Recognition
    • Though awards are certainly not the best way to choose an attorney those that relate to client service and satisfaction as well as those relating to a Lawyer’s ethical standing in the community can give you a good idea of the type of person you would be working with to create your Estate Plan.
  • The size of the attorney’s firm
    • Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the Louisiana Estate Planning Law Firms. You want to make sure that the attorney you’re working with has adequate support staff but you don’t want to be part of a ‘Will Mill’ where everyone walks out with the same generic, fill-in-the-blank and often insufficient Estate Planning documents.
  • Client Reviews
    • Always, always, always read client reviews. No one can tell you what working with an attorney will be like better than those who have already worked with that attorney.
  • Who did your friends use?
    • This can be even more helpful than reading client reviews because you get the information right from the source. Additionally, your friends know you so they know what characteristics you will most likely value in an attorney and they can tell you if someone they met with or hired displayed those characteristics.
  • Office location
    • It seems like a small thing, and it certainly shouldn’t be a make-or-break factor, but an attorney’s office location is a possible factor for consideration.
  • The type of things you want your Estate Plan to include, which may mean assessing the state of your estate

There will, of course, be other things that you’ll want to consider when hiring an attorney but those are some general factors that can be determined before you ever have to leave your home.

Meeting With Your Attorney- That ‘Just Right’ Feeling

The next step in choosing an attorney is going to be scheduling a consultation and actually going in and meeting with him or her.

There are some things that you just can’t tell about an attorney, his or her office staff, or anyone really, just by online research and word-of-mouth; which is why an in-person meeting is so critical.

During your initial search you probably came across the same three of four names and law firms, so give them all a call to see who will work best for you.

  • Always ask about afree consultation. You shouldn’t have to pay to meet with an attorney to see if he or she is the right fit for you. Think of your first consultation as the attorney auditioning for you; not the other way around.
  • Take note of things like how the office staff handles your call, after all, you could be scheduling several appointments at this office and you want to ensure you’re treated with respect on all fronts.

What are your goals and who is the best person to help you achieve them?

  • You don’t need to come in with a list of questions but knowing what main goals you would like to accomplish is strongly advised.
    • Do you want a full Estate Plan?
      • Medical and Financial Power of Attorney Documents
      • Last Will & Testament?
      • Do you want to give instructions for the dispersions of specific items in your estate or simply minimize estate taxes?
    • You may not know what actual documents you need but more what you want to accomplish and that’s fine, that’s part of what the consultation is for. Your potential attorney should listen to your goals and advise you how to proceed and what legal documents will best enable you to accomplish your goals.
  • What is the attorney’s pricing structure?
    • Pricing is important but hopefully isn’t the only determining factor in choosing an estate planning attorney. This isn’t an area of law where you can afford shoddy work as you will not be around to step in if something doesn’t go as planned
  • Note if your questions are answered completely and in a way that you understand. Communicating with your attorney is going to be critical moving forward so you need to be comfortable with the lawyer you end up retaining. Find someone you communicate on the same level with. Are you comfortable asking any question? Asking for clarification? Discussing your personal and financial situation?

You should leave your first appointment with an attorney with a firm understanding of that attorney’s suggestions for moving forward, a timeline for that progression, pricing points, questions answered and knowing what is expected of you as a client and him or her as a service provider.

Remember: you are not required to hire an attorney just because you met with him or her. Don’t be nervous about leaving your first appointment without signing a retainer. If you’re unsure about your choice the last thing that attorney should be doing is pressuring you to make a choice. If you have concerns about the match then interview another attorney. You may find that you were right to question your initial choice or you may find that you’re far more confident in one choice over the other but it never hurts to try them all.

Estate Planning documents need updating fairly often; essentially every time your financial, family or even medical situation experience a change, so it is always advisable that you find someone who you will be comfortable working with two or three years down the road when it’s time for an update.

To schedule your free consultation with one or our Baton Rouge or Metairie area Estate Planning attorneys, contact our offices today.

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