Estate planning can be a challenging topic to think about, especially when it requires you to contemplate a life for loved ones in which you are no longer around. While no one wants to get in touch with a probate lawyer, it is also true that being prepared for the inevitability of death can be an empowering step for anyone to take. In order to ensure that your assets are managed properly after death, it is vital that you get in touch with a legal representative who will be able to guide the executor and beneficiaries of your estate through the probate process.
With so many lawyers out there, choosing the best one to assist in handling your estate can be an overwhelming task. As such, there are numerous questions you should ask any prospective estate probate lawyer before you decide on hiring them to craft your estate plan. To get the ball rolling, here are the top 6 most important questions to ask your probate attorney in order to assess their skills and capacity.
1. How Long Have You Been Practising?
As the saying goes, experience is the teacher of all things. One of the first and most important questions you should be asking your probate lawyer is how long they have been practicing. While this is by no means a form of criticism to young lawyers, in some instances, there is no substitute for experience. Experience should be a crucial deciding factor when selecting your probate lawyer in order to ensure that you are able to achieve your goals. A skillful attorney who is experienced in handling probate and estate planning will be able to assist you (or your loved ones) in navigating probate courts and spotting mistakes in procedural matters.
Tip: We also recommend asking your probate lawyer if they have had experience in executing a will in the past. You may be surprised to find that many skillful lawyers don’t actually have any experience in this area, so be sure to clarify on this matter before giving your attorney the green light.
2. What Are Your Fees?
The cost of estate planning varies, often making it impossible to find out the exact prices of what a lawyer may charge on their website. As such, another vital question you will need to ask any potential probate lawyer is what sort of fees they charge for their service. While there is no right or wrong when it comes to how much one should be paying for a probate lawyer’s services, it is helpful to note that in most cases, the more experienced the lawyer, the higher the fees.
If you are in no particular rush, we suggest ‘shopping around’ and finding out how much a probate attorney typically charges for the service. With this information in hand, you will be able to interview multiple lawyers to have a better gauge on how much a competitor charges versus any other attorney. Getting answers regarding fees early on in the game is the best way to avoid nasty surprises in the form of unexpected expenses after the probate process.
3. Do You Have Courtroom Experience?
Were you under the impression that all lawyers have courtroom experience? In reality, many lawyers rarely, if ever, go into court as the scope of their work does not require it. Because probate proceedings are carried out in court, it is important to choose an attorney who has a decent amount of courtroom experience in the field of probate.
Ideally, your attorney will be familiar with courtroom protocol and conduct, and should have dealt with a variety of similar past cases in the courtroom.
4. What Documents Am I Required To Provide?
It will come as no surprise that estate planning requires its fair share of documents and paperwork to be finalized. Asking your lawyer what these documents are early on in the game can save you a great deal of time and effort. Generally, the probate process will require you to provide your last Will and testament, a living trust (if applicable), copies of your assets, bank accounts, investments, properties, outstanding bills and insurance policies.
Lastly, you will need to provide a list with the name of your intended beneficiaries and executor/s of your will.
5. What Will You Do If My Assets Are Mismanaged?
The last thing anyone wants is for their assets to be mismanaged after death. After all, the whole point of a will and probate is to ensure that your assets are managed properly and in accordance to your wishes. As such, it is vital that you ask your probate lawyer what they would do in the small chance that your assets are mismanaged by beneficiaries, heirs or even your executors. An experienced and trustworthy probate lawyer should be able to give you concise information on how they will provide legal assistance to either stop, remove persons or get compensation for any wasted finances or assets.
While you may not be around to see any of this happen, it can be reassuring to know that you have prepared for any potential scenario that may affect your beneficiaries and/or loved ones.
6. Are There Any Issues That May Arise In My Case?
Last but not least, an experienced lawyer will be able to look into your individual circumstances to assess if there could be potential issues that arise in your case. Ensuring that you are made aware of this information sooner rather than later will help you in obtaining any necessary paperwork in advance, saving you a lot of time, effort and money. Doing so will also greatly reduce the chances of your loved ones encountering any delays or issues after your passing.
And there you have it – 6 crucial questions you should be asking any probate lawyer when you are in the process of estate planning. Like most things in life, always trust your intuition and go with your gut in order to determine if a particular probate lawyer is right for you.
What are some of your tips when it comes to finding the best probate lawyer? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.