Friday, September 12, 2014

Introduction to Estate Planning: A Course for Consumers Chapter 5 How to Select an Estate Planning Attorney

Chapter 5: How to Locate and Select a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney

When we started this journey into the world of estate planning, we began to learn how to approach estate planning, certain concepts about wills and other documents and why estate planning is unique to each client. Here in Chapter 5 we discuss how to select a qualified estate planning attorney to assist you with your estate plan.



Selecting a qualified estate planning specialist is important for the following reasons:

  1. While many attorneys will do a will or power of attorney for you, they may not be specializing in the field of estate planning. Not being a specialist limits the attorney's skill set and prevents you from the benefits of the advice of a qualified expert.
  2. Working with a specialist gives you the best chance to get it right the first time. For example, would you let your dentist do your heart surgery? The idea is to treat attorneys the same as doctors; deal with the right specialist for the job at hand. Here is an article I wrote on this very topic that illustrates this point: Dealing with Specialists in Estate Planning As you will learn in ths chapter, not only is dealing a specialist attorney important to your family and you, there are simple steps to follow so you can find the right one.
  3. Learn the process of choosing the right estate planning attorney. Many people mistakenly rely on a referral service such as you might have in your community. These lists are dangerous and usually hazardous to your estate plan. Referral lists are usually paid services that charge people to be listed. They do not vet the people they list and this permits someone with no true expertise and experience to call themselves an estate planner when, in fact, they are not. When you follow the steps laid out below, you can steer clear of these problems.
 

These images show an estate planning meeting in progress. Here are the steps these people used to find their estate planning attorney:

1. Interview and ask for referral from other professionals.

One of the best ways to locate an estate planning specialist is to ask around. Ask your CPA, your banker, your life insurance agent. Professionals know who the experts are and getting referrals from other professionals you already trust is a good starting point.

Interview each person. Insist on a free consultation via phone before you make an appointment. Remember that your estate planning meeting will usually have a charge, so do those phone consultations first.

2. Insist on real estate planning experience and expertise.

As mentioned above, do not use or rely on any referral listing service, radio or TV or internet ads. The attorney you speak with should have, at a minimum the following qualifications:

A. Full time estate planning specialization for at least the last 7 consecutive years. Estate planning is not an area for part timers or people who wear other hats.

B. Membership in the State Bar Association Trust and Estate Section.

C. An AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the international attorney rating service. These ratings are peer ratings and cannot be purchased by the attorney. The AV rating is the highest rating for ability and professionalism an attorney can achieve.

While these qualifications are not difficult to have, you should insist on them when you are choosing your estate planning attorney.

3. Have a clear understanding before beginning how the attorney bills and the time frame for completion of your estate plan.

As we are exploring in this book, there are several integrated steps in every client's estate plan. Make sure you are clear what those steps will be for you, how many meetings to expect, the time frame for the process and each step, what your homework between each meeting is, and how the attorneys fees and costs will work.



Once you have selected your estate planning attorney and understand the process for your estate plan, it is time to begin. In our next chapter, we start our discussion of the components of every estate plan and begin to dissect the tools of estate planning such as wills, trusts and related documents.

I hope you are enjoying this book on estate planning. Since the book is published in this interactive format, we are able to adjust our content as we proceed based on your comments. Please feel free to comment and offer suggestions as they are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

There Is No One Size Fits All Estate Plan

There is no one size fits all estate plan. As an estate planning attorney in Douglas County, Colorado, I am asked frequently why another's good looking estate plan can't be copied.

I mean, how could there be? Is anyone else exactly like you? We all know the answer, but if you use a DIY solution or think you are just like everyone else, it could spell estate planning disasters for your family. We as estate planning attorneys know that each client estate plan, their will, powers of attorney; livng wills and related documents must take into account their particular situations.

In this article by, Christopher W. Yugo, he explores this concept and why custom designing and drafting your estate plan so it can be just for you is important. You can read the article by clicking this link: The Yugo Article

Let me know your thoughts and if you have questions about why your estate plan will probably not look like your friend's or neighbor's plan.

Join our conversation and let us know your thoughts, leave us a comment and a review if you see this post on social media. Thank you.

To find my firm click here: Kokish & Goldmanis, P.C.

To find our firm on facebook click here: Kokish & Goldmanis on facebook feel free to leave us a review there.

To find our firm on Google or Google Places or Google+, click here: Kokish & Goldmanis on Google+ where we'd love you to post a review as well.

Bernie Greenberg

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Introduction to Estate Planning: A Course for Consumers Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Components of Every Estate Plan

In Chapter 3 of Introduction to Estate Planning: A Course for Consumers, we discussed identifying estate planning goals and objectives. The client's (your) goals are analyzed by the estate planning attorney and client to set the direction of the client's estate plan.

Here in Chapter 4 we review the basic components of every estate plan. These components are considered in every client's plan in some form. As you read the components, ask whether these have been considered in your existing plan and how you know that. Making sure these are all covered in critical in having a current estate plan.


To preview future chapters, in Chapter 5, we will cover the specific steps to follow to identify and locate a qualified estate planning specialist to work with, so stay tuned.Also, in future chapters we will cover estate planning details and specific strategies.

1. The Testamentary Component:

The testamentary component addresses where property or assets go and how they are handled upon the death of the client. There are numerous ways to address this component using wills and/or trusts which we will cover in future chapters.


2. The Disability Component:

This component addresses who will make decisions (both financial and health care) for the client after the client's incapacity. In this component there is also focus on the client's specific wishes about care at the end of life.

3. The Titling Component:

The titling component focuses on how the client's property and assets are titled and how beneficiary designations are structured. This is critical because the estate plan can be defeated if property is improperly titled or if beneficiary designations have money going contrary to the estate plan.

4. The Probate Component:

This component analyzes the probate impact to the client, family and property of various estate planning and titling options. For example, if the client owns a vacation home in a different state, failing to address that could result in a two state probate process.

5. The Tax Component:

The tax component focuses on the income, gift and estate tax impact of the estate plan and titling options the client is considering. For example, as we will see in future chapters, since the estate tax exemption is $5,340,000 for 2014, clients have greater freedom to plan their estates without worrying about the federal estate tax. However, since Congress frequently changes these exemptions, this component requires a continuing look by every client.


Since every client situation is unique, how these five components are addressed will vary between clients. Still, every client will review all five of these components in the design and implementation of their estate plan.

In Chapter 5 of Introduction to Estate Planning: A Course for Consumers, we will focus on how to choose a qualified estate planning specialist. Picking the right estate planning attorney is another fundamental building block of each client's estate plan.

As always, thank you for your questions and comments which are welcome.