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Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney

A values-based, client-centered attorney will help your clients succeed.

All successful estate planning is the result of several professions working together for the good of the client. However, professionals of one group sometimes have misconceptions of professionals belonging to other groups. For example, the financial advisor may see the estate-planning attorney as a deal killer or a document peddler. But this is far from the truth. There are hundreds of estate-planning attorneys who are willing to work together with other professionals to help their clients. The key is to find those who are values-based, relationship-driven, client-centered and counseling-oriented.

Searching for gold

So where do you find these rare creatures? How do you know if you're dealing with the right kind of attorney? The right kind of attorney will have an orientation toward relationship building and counseling rather than document preparation. The first thing he will offer is the ability, through counseling, to draw out the client's hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations for himself and his loved ones. The attorney will carry on a sensitive dialogue that will enable his client to make clear his wishes to maintain control over his affairs, to be cared for properly in the event of a disability and to provide meaningfully for his loved ones after he is gone.

The right attorney will inquire about:

  • the complexities of the family relationships through multiple marriages
  • special-health needs of a grandchild
  • a son-in-law who is not to be trusted
  • the spendthrift daughter

On a more positive note, the right kind of attorney will ask about:

  • the client's wishes to fund the education of his offspring for several generations
  • grand philanthropic goals that provide the client with feelings of significance that surpass his success

In-depth counseling forms the strong foundation on which a long-term relationship is built. The right attorney will involve the other advisors in this process to the degree that the client is comfortable with that arrangement. When a client shares what is really important to him now and after his death, he develops a strong bond with his professional advisors.