By Lorie Burch, Owner & Founding Attorney of Burch Law
I know many struggle in knowing how to find the right Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Attorney for them. Here are a few suggestions when choosing a lawyer to write your Will and powers of attorney:
- Ask if estate planning is at least 50% of their practice. There are far too many attorneys who “dabble” with writing Wills and that causes attorneys like me and clients like you almost as many headaches as online forms. For example, our practice is about 98% estate planning and probate. That’s not saying an attorney needs to be “board certified” for this type of work. I’m not and most of my fellow Wills & Trusts lawyers are not, but you can always use that as a criteria.
- Ensure that they also practice probate. If they don’t know how Wills get interpreted by the court, then they have no business drafting these documents, in my opinion. I have become a lot better at drafting through understanding how various courts may interpret language and clauses.
- I would ask if they will guide you on how to make sure your beneficiaries of life insurance, retirement, and financial accounts are set up in a way that will work with your wishes. For example, you do not want to name a child under 18 as a beneficiary.
- Make sure you ask if they will help you with ensuring your documents get signed appropriately. If it’s not signed properly, it’s not valid. Texas requires you to sign in the physical presence of two witnesses. No exceptions, even though I’ve seen some “online notary services” provide witnesses who appear via video conference and that will not hold up in court. We have very strict guidelines on having people sign in our office or we provide detailed instructions and guidance on how to arrange themselves.
- Ensure they don’t just make you fill out a long form without explaining concepts and roles that you are assigning to people. I have some clients who do great with that, and for them, they can fill something out (see references to our new online Will app), but our typical client has an initial consultation where we walk them through everything.
- Find out the timing and process. They should be able to provide you drafts to review within a few weeks tops. Find out how quickly you can then get the drafts updated and/or signed. Many attorneys drag their feet and an unsigned Will is no Will at all.
I could go on and on about what I believe makes a GREAT Wills & Trust attorney, but these are some of the factors I would encourage you all to look into when you are making this important decision for yourself and your family.