Finding the Best Estate Planning Attorney for your Family

Few things are more important to the success of your estate plan than the attorney you choose to design and draft it. Almost as important is the relationship that is formed between that attorney and other professional advisors who serve you in the areas of financial advice and accounting.

All successful estate planning is the result of several professions working together for the good of the client. However, professionals of one group sometimes have misconceptions of professionals belonging to other groups. For example, the financial advisor could see the estate planning attorney very little regarding green document scrivener. But this is not very true.

Many legal representatives who limit their practice to estate planning are values-based, relationship-driven, client-centered and counseling-oriented. And the good ones are willing to work together with other professionals as a representative. They understand that thorough estate Left Out Of Will planning involves more than just legal counsel. The key is to find those legal representatives who meet this description.

So where do you find these rare creatures? How do you know if you’re dealing with the kind of attorney? The kind of attorney will have an direction toward relationship-building and counseling rather than mere document preparation. The first thing he or she will offer is the ability to listen carefully to not only your goals — but also your hopes, dreams, and ambitions for yourself and your loved ones. The attorney will carry on a sensitive debate that will enable you to make clear your wishes to maintain control over your affairs, to be cared for properly in the event of a inability and to provide meaningfully for your loved ones after you are gone.

It’s About More than Just Taxes

Any competent estate planning attorney can help you navigate the legal complexity and tax laws that pertain to the passing of wealth. But the kind of estate planning attorney will also be interested in your desire to pass along more than just money. He or she will ask around and explain how to accomplish such things as:

ofunding the education of offspring for several generations

omeeting philanthropic goals that will leave a legacy for your community

opreserving family history and stories that support the values you would imagine in

ocontinuing or divesting a family business

ocaring for a living spouse regardless of circumstances

oand much more.

On a less positive, but equally important note, the kind of attorney will ask around such things as:

othe complexities of the family relationships that may exist due to second marriage situations

othe special health needs of a grandchild

othe son or daughter-in-law who is not to be trusted

othe child or grandchild who is a spendthrift or suffers from substance abuse

Such in-depth counseling forms a strong foundation on which a long-term relationship is built. That relationship is important because an estate plan is not a transaction. Rather, it’s a regular process to be reviewed from time to time throughout your life — and potentially survives through several generations. You should involve your adult children in the planning process, and the right attorney will build a relationship with them as well.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Another trait of the kind of attorney applies commitment to the team approach in estate planning. A good estate planning attorney knows that every member of the planning team (including the investment advisor, the insurance professional and the CPA) is vital to the success of the plan. The right attorney will involve the other advisors in the long-term relationship you have to their education that you are comfortable with that arrangement.

Legal documents are not enough. Even documents which are made to last from in-depth counseling and are custom-designed to meet the unique needs of the client are not enough. Documents standing alone are like the proverbial automobile without fuel.

The documents’ instructions only apply at assets that are properly owned.

For example, a will only controls those tips owned in the individual’s name–not jointly. The trust only controls those tips owned by the trustee of the trust. An irrevocable life insurance trust works only if it is properly funded with a suitable insurance policy. Advanced entities require careful balancing of assets for maximum effectiveness. Accurate valuation of your business interests is imperative. New planning tools often require additional accounting and tax advice.

Financial and insurance advisors, as well as accountants, provide the fuel that is needed to help ensure that appropriate financial assets are specific and funded correctly, offer necessary valuations and tax returns, and provide the opportinity for proper balance within the plan. The estate planning attorney you work with should not only recognize these facts, but be cooperative and collegial with the other professionals that are providing these things.

Each member of the interdisciplinary team provides for a cross-check for the other members. If there is disagreement among the professionals on a strategy or its enactment, it can be discussed and pushed between them as a team. After all, estate planning is both a form of art and a science. In this way, you are served with unanimous agreement among the professionals instead of getting contradicting advice from multiple sources. Mutual respect and clear protocols will characterize the interdisciplinary team that is working well together. Each team member will know exactly what is expected of him or her, and communication with each other and with you will be constant and clear.

As mentioned, the kind of attorney will be focused on a long-term (even multi-generational) relationship you and your family. Therefore, the attorney will not have a transactional approach to the estate plan, but instead a process approach. An estate plan is never really done through to the person doing the planning has passed away and every instruction for every beneficiary of each one subsequent generation has been carried out. Those who bring the plan in the past tighten (“They did their estate plan… “) may have a shortsighted perspective.

A Strategic Process to support the Relationships

The client-centered attorney will ensure that everything possible is done so that the plan is carried to fruition and your expectations are met.

There is nothing as constant as change. Your personal, family and financial situations change all the time. Kids get married and have children; there are divorce and remarriages; real estate and financial assets change value as the market comes up or down; a child marries someone you don’t accept of; a grandchild gets involved with drugs; you win the lottery; and so on.

John Mac

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