Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wills and Estate Planning -- Engaging an Attorney

 by Lonnie C. Rich

 Once you have decided that you want to get your Will, Trust and other planning documents prepared, you need to pick an attorney.  How do you do that?  How much does it cost? How long does it take?  What do I need to bring to the first meeting?

The best way to pick an attorney is to choose someone that 1) you know personally and trust, and 2) has experience with estate planning.  The next best way is to ask for a referral from a trusted friend or professional advisors: CPA, financial advisor, or insurance agent. Remember, you may need to return to the attorney on multiple occasions as life changes require you to update your current plan and documents, so be sure you are comfortable with whomever you choose. 

In your first conversation with an attorney, ask how they charge and what is included.  RRBMDK, like many attorneys, works on an hourly basis; but we give a fairly narrow range of the likely fees.  This has the disadvantage of a little uncertainty, but has the advantage of fairness – some pay a little more or little less than others because their situation or desires take more time or less time than others.  Other attorneys offer a flat fee which is usually based on the higher end of the estimated time to perform the services.  The flat fee offers certainty, but means that you may pay more than the actual work justifies on an hourly basis.

As to how long it takes, that usually depends on your urgency.  Some attorneys routinely take several months.  At RRBMDK, it is usually 2-3 weeks from start to finish; but we can work faster in an emergency.

What do you need for the first meeting?  Some attorneys ask you to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. At RRBMDK, our experience is that many potential clients wither under such a load; and then they never complete the process.  Rather, we ask for a simple family tree and a one-page financial – 20 minutes of your time. 

Lonnie C. Rich, a partner at RRBMDK, has been helping client with Estate Planning in Northern Virginia for over 30 years.  If you have questions, give him a call.