I am constantly drawing on personal experiences for blog ideas to help other people with estate planning issues. Recently I had a friend, who lives out of state, ask me how she should pick an attorney from a list of attorneys as part of an employer legal services program. There were over fifteen different attorneys in the estate planning category. Here are some of the things I suggested they do and ask:
Look at the state bar website
Attorneys are licensed by the state(s) in which they practice. Check to see if that state’s bar association has a website, and if it’s listed licensed attorneys. It can provide valuable information, such as how long they have had their license and if they have any sanctions.
Do an internet search
See if they have a website and are on social media where you can learn more about them and their firm.
If they have a website, do they list their practice areas?
Falk, Cornell & Associates, LLP is an estate planning law firm. That is the only area of law we practice, which means our attorneys can focus solely on estate planning law updates.
Additionally, all of our attorneys are Certified Legal Specialists in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate law through the California State Bar Association.
An attorney may just be a general practitioner and occasionally does a will or living trust. It’s a personal preference but important to know the difference in order to make an educated decision in selecting an attorney.
Do they offer a complimentary consultation?
Falk, Cornell & Associates, LLP offers a complimentary 30-minute consultation to meet with us, discuss your personal situation and explore the best estate planning options.
What are the steps in their process and how long does it typically take to execute an estate plan?
At our office, our process usually takes 4-6 weeks with three appointments, including an initial appointment, a review appointment and a signing or execution appointment. You will meet with an attorney and/or paralegal at every appointment to ensure all of your questions are properly answered.
How are fees determined?
The typical fee structure is hourly, flat fee or a hybrid of hourly and flat fees. An hourly fee structure charges for all your meeting times, telephone calls and emails, as well as the time the attorney and/or paralegals spend working on your file.
A flat fee structure, like what we charge, rolls all the meeting times, emails, telephone calls, as well as time spent on your file preparing your documents into one flat fee.
A hybrid fee may charge a flat fee for the documents and the preparation time and an hourly fee for meeting times, phone calls and emails with attorneys, paralegals and staff.
Our flat fee basic estate plan includes your Living Trust, Will, Advance Healthcare Directive, Power of Attorney, and several other ancillary documents. This also includes your appointments, emails and phone calls with the attorneys, paralegals and staff regarding your basic estate plan. We believe a flat fee structure provides our clients a level of comfort knowing ahead of time what the final bill will be as well as the ability to ask questions in order to understand how their estate plan will work.
Overall, make sure you choose an estate planning attorney you are comfortable working with and you understand the process and fees up front. Creating an estate plan is important for your peace of mind. We invite you to schedule an appointment and one of our attorneys will be happy to help answer your questions.