MoneyDo: How To Hire An Estate Planning Attorney


Holistic wealth management includes developing a comprehensive estate plan. While Annex has attorneys on staff, they cannot provide legal representation to individuals to draft customized estate plans. As such, hiring an estate planning attorney that works well with your wealth management firm is an important step in the process.

This week’s MoneyDo is designed to give you talking points as you interview and ultimately hire an attorney to draft your estate plan.

But let’s first address an often-asked question: Do I need an attorney, or can I just use an online service to create my estate plan?

Creating an estate plan is important and while it can be expensive, this is not an area where you want to find the cheapest solution. We’ve found that people often have questions and unique family dynamics that online tools cannot solve for and answer. In addition, we’ve reviewed estate plans over the years and found many online tools do not actually accomplish the individual’s estate planning goals, or they contain errors that will be more costly to correct after some dies. The more unfortunate part is you don’t know there is a problem. So, the answer to the question, is yes, you should use an attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan.

Hiring an attorney is personal choice, so it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

• Am I comfortable working with this person?
• Do I feel I can trust this person to work with my existing advisors?
• Does this attorney make me feel at ease about the planning process?

Beyond having a working comfort level with the attorney, you also need to make sure they are qualified to create your estate plan. Attorneys are like Doctors; they often specialize, so use the following questions to gauge if the attorney focuses much of their practice on estate planning:

• Is estate planning your primary focus?
• How many years have you been doing estate planning?
• Can you help avoid or eliminate the probate process?
• Do you provide guidance and instructions for asset titling and beneficiary designations?

As with any service provider you hire, ask about fees:

• Do you offer a free initial consultation?
• Do you charge hourly vs. flat fee and what is all included in that fee?
• Ask for an estimate after you’ve had an initial conversation about your goals.

In addition, you may have some more detailed elements of your estate plan to ask questions about, such as:

• If you have a closely held business, ask if they also do business succession planning as part of the estate planning process?
• If you have significant retirement accounts, ask if they are well versed in the SECURE Act and estate planning techniques for IRAs.
• If you have a blended family, ask if they have experience or comfort doing estate planning in those situations.
• If you have beneficiaries with special needs, ask if they have expertise in special needs trusts.

If you have additional questions about hiring an estate planning attorney, please reach out to a member of the Annex Wealth Management team for guidance.