Eight questions to ask your lawyer when making a will
Do you need to write or update your will? Here are eight questions you need to ask a lawyer before hiring them to help you.
There are many benefits associated with writing a comprehensive will, from fostering financial security for your loved ones to minimizing inheritance tax. It will allow you to appoint guardians for your children, choose executors, and create a life interest.
You will need a qualified and extensively experienced estate or family attorney to help draft your last will and testament. But before you begin process it’s important you ask the right questions. Here are eight you need to consider.
1) Do you specializ in estate planning?
Estate planning is a diverse and vast field that requires extensive knowledge and skills, which means that it’s important to find someone who specialises in it. An excellent lawyer must have in-depth knowledge and experience in the area. This knowledge allows them to create a comprehensive plan aligned with the current regulations.
A specialized lawyer understands the various trends and changes in estate law., and will be able to handle the unique legal issues related to your will more easily and professionally. It will also ensure that the entire proceedings will go more quickly and smoothly.
As well as asking if they specialize, find out how many years they have been practicing, as length of experience is important too.
2) Do you execute the plan?
Excellent execution is vital for the success of your estate planning process. Suppose you need a qualified professional to execute your testament. Your go-to person should be the lawyer. And yet, some lawyers are unwilling to handle the execution. For this reason, ensure that you ask your lawyer in advance; it will help avoid problems in the long run.
You will need to nominate an executor if your preferred lawyer cannot offer this service. On the other hand, you could consider getting a different lawyer to ensure that the entire process is smooth. Hiring a lawyer who can execute the plan will ensure everything goes as you envision.
3) What is a lasting power of attorney, and is it necessary?
The lasting power of attorney gives your lawyer the authority to act on your behalf in case of death or incapacitation. There are two types of power of attorney that you can consider:
- Property and Financial
- Health & Welfare
Your estate planning lawyer will guide you on what to consider in your situation. Usually, you will need to grant them or your loved ones either the financial or healthcare power of attorney. These powers will ensure that everything regarding your health or finances is handled seamlessly, regardless of what happens to you in the long run.
4) What will happen during our initial meeting?
An initial meeting is necessary to ensure that all parties are on the same page. You must meet with a lawyer to check that all your legal and financial matters are in order.
This meeting also provides you with an important opportunity to screen your potential lawyer, and determine whether they are your perfect fit. When screening a lawyer, pay attention to their communication, customer service, and responses.
Always ask for an initial educational meeting. This meeting will provide insights into how estate planning will benefit your family and business. You will also get a comprehensive action plan for what should follow next. Plus, it will help you understand the strategies that the lawyer uses, including how personalized their approach can be.
The initial meeting should give you an idea of the entire cost, too. While most estate planning lawyers charge a flat fee, some services might be billed per hour. Understanding their pricing structure will help avoid unnecessary inconveniences in the long run. However, you must confirm whether you will be charged for the first meeting.
5) What does the planning fee cover?
People often assume that a flat fee covers all elements of the estate planning process. However, this might not necessarily be true.
This is because there can be many changes during life, including changes in asset ownership, outdated documents, and different estate laws. And with any important life and estate changes, you’ll need to update your will.
Check with your lawyer to find out whether there is a flat fee for updating your documents. These updates will allow you to change different elements, including adding assets or removing investment portfolios.
Some lawyers will offer a membership program, allowing you to reach them for consultations and updates without worrying about new charges. An ongoing service program could also work well.
At the same time, you want to know how responsive the attorney will be to your needs. A lawyer is less likely to be responsive if they do not have adequate administrative support staff. This question arises if you are offered the ongoing service program. Proactive communication is vital in this arrangement.
6) Can you help me make the right decisions?
Estate planning does not stop at having a comprehensive testament. Instead, it entails wise investments and retirement planning. A good lawyer should be willing to help you diversify your investment, creating more wealth in the long run. This lawyer will help compare and select different options in the market, ensuring that everything is seamless.
This is why it is important to choose a lawyer with extensive experience and skill in retirement planning. They can help to cushion you against wrong choices, gradually building your wealth. They will also know which insurance and financial products you should consider.
The right lawyer will have the relevant resources to ensure that this works. They should also focus on reducing inheritance and probate taxes, and provide a plan on how they intend to achieve this.
7) How do you handle intangible assets?
What happens if you have multiple intangible assets that you want to pass to another party after your demise? In this scenario, you must confirm with the lawyer whether they have the resources and experience to handle intangible assets, including licenses, trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Goodwill acquired in your business is also part of the intangible assets you might consider.
Your chosen lawyer must offer a clear path indicating how these assets will pass to a different person. These assets will also include the messages, stories, insights, and values you want to pass on to your loved ones.
8) What should I include in my will?
You must be very clear about what you wish to include in your last testament. A lawyer will provide insights into what documents you need, including your desire for property division.
Generally, your last testament shall include your funeral arrangements, property distribution, rights and powers of specific family members, and guardianship. Everything will be done based on your wishes and desires. Fortunately, you can change the document at any time.
Your will is an important document, and you need to get it right
Having a will is vital in protecting your assets and your loved ones after you die. So it’s important to make sure you prepare one. And it’s just as important to find the right lawyer to handle it for you so you get it right.
Photo by Maxim Ilyahov