Most Americans are aware of the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan; yet, despite this knowledge over half of all American do not have a plan in place. If you are among the majority, now is the time to change that by finally taking the time to create your estate plan. Your first step should be to retain the services of an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney to assist you in the creation of your plan. Since you have likely never needed an estate planning attorney before, you may not know where to start finding the right attorney for you. Ultimately, only you can decide which estate planning attorney is the right fit for you and your estate planning goals; however, the following steps may help you make that decision.
- Create a list of your estate planning goals and objectives. Before you can evaluate whether or not a particular attorney is a good fit for you and your estate planning goals you need to know what those goals are. Take some time to consider what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan should do much more than simply direct the distribution of your estate assets after your death. For example, do you need to include special needs planning, Medicaid planning, or business succession planning in your plan? Are probate or estate tax avoidance important goals? Make a list of your estate planning goals and objectives before you even start your search.
- Ask friends, family, and co-workers for a referral. Often, the best leads come from family, friends and co-workers who have worked with an estate planning attorney in the past. Therefore, one of your first steps should be to ask people whose opinion to trust for referrals.
- Check with credible lawyer referral services. This does not mean you should use the first “lawyer referral” site that pops up when you do a Google search. It does mean to use organizations such as theMissouri Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis Lawyer Referral and Information Service, or the member directory at the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.
- Research using the internet. Choosing an attorney solely based on viewing a website is not necessarily the best option; however, given the fact that in the 21st century almost every attorney does have a website there is no reason not to use that fact to conduct some research. By this point you should have a list of names you have gathered through other means. Take that list and look up ach attorney’s website to get a feel for the attorney’s practice areas, length of time practicing law, and overall “vibe.”
- Narrow down your options. By now you should be ready to whittle down the list to three or four of the most likely candidates.
- Schedule consultations. When you have your potential attorney list down to three or four attorneys it is time to schedule consultations with each one. Most attorneys offer free, or low cost, initial consultations.
- Prepare for your consultations. Because it will be a cost-free initial consultation your time with each attorney will probably be limited. In order to make the best use of that time, take the time before your consultations to prepare a list of questions and concerns you have. Doing so will keep the discussion on track and will ensure that you do not forget to ask something important regarding your projected estate plans.
- Choose your attorney. After you have met with each of the final few attorneys you should be prepared to make a decision. Along with relevant factors such as how long the attorney has been practicing and how much of his/her practice is devoted to estate planning cases, you should ask yourself which attorney “felt” right to you. If you followed the above steps you should be left with three or four excellent candidates, meaning you cannot really go wrong at this point. Often, your intuition is ultimately your best guide.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how to choose the right estate planning attorney for you, or to schedule a consultation with a St. Louis Missouri estate planning attorney, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.
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