Proper estate planning is an important aspect of getting your financial affairs in order and protecting your loved ones. However, the process can be complex, time-consuming and emotionally stressful. This is why you need professional guidance and advice to ensure you make logical and informed decisions. 

Working with a qualified North Carolina estate planning lawyer will help you avoid costly mistakes when drafting your estate plan. But how can you ensure you choose the right professional for the job?

What Do Estate Planning Attorneys Do?

An estate planning attorney, also known as a probate attorney or estate law attorney, assists clients in handling estate planning matters. The lawyer can assist you in drafting and finalizing important estate planning instruments. This allows you to express your wishes regarding how your estate should be handled in the event of an incapacitating event or your eventual death. They can also educate you about the probate process and explain what you can do to ensure your goals are carried out correctly. 

Some documents and designations an estate planning lawyer will help you prepare are:

  • Your last will and testament
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Guardianship designations
  • Revocable living trust
  • Digital asset trust
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Health care power of attorney 
  • Letter of intent

What Can An Estate Planning Attorney Do For Me?

Estate planning is for everyone, regardless of financial status or age. Indeed, the process deals with more than just financial assets. An estate plan can also include items such as your future health decisions, charitable giving and your funeral arrangements. To ensure the lawyer you hire is the right fit for you, you need to understand the specific tasks of a wills and estates attorney. 

There are many reasons why you should consider hiring an estate planning attorney. Below are a few things the lawyer can do: 

  • Draft a will and put beneficiaries in place 
  • Modify and update your estate plan whenever necessary
  • Recommend someone you can trust to carry out your health wishes  
  • Ensure your affairs are in order in the event of incapacitation
  • Find legal ways to help minimize estate taxes 
  • Help heirs and beneficiaries to avoid the lengthy and costly probate process
  • Create an estate plan that protects both your family and legacy 
  • Ensure your wishes are followed when you die

By addressing these tasks, your estate planning attorney will help to significantly reduce the difficulties your loved ones go through when you are incapacitated or pass away. 

How Do I Choose An Estate Planning Attorney?

When looking for an estate planning lawyer, you will want to work with a professional who is capable of providing competent and personalized legal counsel. With the numerous options available, making the right decision can seem daunting. Here are a few ways to find reliable prospects. 

  • Ask your financial advisor or accountant for a referral
  • Inquire from attorneys you know if they recommend any estate planning specialists
  • Check your state’s or local bar association website
  • Obtain referrals from trusted friends and family

Once you have compiled a list of potential candidates, the next step will be to narrow down your options and pick the right lawyer for your needs. Here are a few things to consider. 

Estate Planning Focus

A lawyer who focuses primarily on estate planning will be well-versed and up-to-date with all the relevant laws, regulations, and strategies. Choosing someone who has estate planning as one of their primary focuses instead of an afterthought with 10 other practice areas will go a long way in ensuring you achieve your goals. The lawyer will also be in a great position to help with your unique financial and family situations. Lastly, this intimate knowledge and focus will enable your attorney to prepare your estate plan quickly and efficiently. 

Personality

Estate planning involves a host of personal matters and sensitive issues. In addition to competence, you will want to work with someone you can trust. You are likely to feel more comfortable sharing your personal information with a lawyer who maintains a friendly and understanding demeanor. Make sure you choose an expert who is interested in your situation, listens to you and takes time to explain technical legal issues. 

Reputation 

Choosing a reputable estate planning lawyer will help to make the entire process easier. Considering that you will be putting your affairs in order in preparation for incapacity or death, it is important to have a dedicated lawyer who will ensure your wishes are fulfilled. Reading online reviews and asking for references from past clients will help you establish the reputation of the lawyer you intend to hire. 

Cost 

The legal fees charged by lawyers will vary depending on their expertise, specialization, experience and work style. Before signing any contract, inquire about attorney fees, the specific services included and other costs you may incur. This will help you avoid unexpected surprises further down the road. However, when choosing a lawyer, you should focus on value rather than price – as with everything else in life, the cheapest option is almost never the best option.

Availability

Estate planning is an ongoing process with many moving parts. To ensure everything is handled properly and in line with your goals and estate planning laws, you should work with a lawyer that you can access easily. The legal expert should keep in contact with you especially when the laws relating to asset protection, taxes, estates and trusts change. Before making any commitments, be sure to set up a consultation with the attorney. 

Other Factors

There are several other factors you need to keep in mind when choosing an estate planning lawyer. Find out the details about your specific situation – how long it will take to create your estate plan, whether they offer an annual review of your estate plan and if the documents will be readily available to you and your family when needed. 

When doing your research, you should take time to visit the websites of the law firms you are interested in working with. This will help you find out more about the law firms and their estate planning lawyers.

Contact Our North Carolina Estate Planning Attorneys

We know that estate planning can feel like a huge undertaking, and that it’s important to have the right team on your side. At McCollum Law, we understand and have helped many people just like you create a plan to protect their family after their passing. We’d love to talk to you – contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.