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On hiring an estate planning attorney
Why hire a specialist?
If you are reading this, you are probably considering a will. Let me encourage you to also consider having it prepared by a lawyer who devotes a considerable amount of his practice and study to estate planning – in short, by a specialist.
By hiring a specialized attorney for your estate planning needs, you are adding layers of protection and expertise to your plan that form-based services and general practice attorneys cannot.
Moreover, hiring a specialist need not be (and is not) more expensive than comparable services from other sources. Many attorneys (and, unfortunately, today some websites) offer to draft a simple will for a low fee. (Experience with such documents has shown the results can be truly unfortunate.) And for a simple, no-frills will, Tanner Pittman, LLC offers a fee that easily matches such “competition.”
But estate planning is vastly more than a simple will. When dealing with clients, estate planning attorneys address the following questions and many more:
Are your life insurance policies and bank accounts titled so that they work in accordance with your will?
Have you taken steps to minimize capital gains tax if your spouse needs to sell property after you die?
Have you taken steps to ensure your child's ex-spouse doesn't "inherit" a portion of your estate?
Have you properly ensured that a young heir will not squander his/her inheritance?
Have you provided for the weeks, months, or years toward the end of your life during which you may be incompetent to manage your financial affairs?
Will your estate be devastated by estate taxes?
Have you provided for beneficiaries with special needs?
Have you taken into account the possibility of one of your heirs petitioning for year's support and defeating your plan?
What should you expect?
Typically, a paralegal will first meet with clients to take down biographical information and other important details. Then, the attorney at Tanner Pittman, LLC will meet with clients for an exploratory conversation to discuss planning needs and goals.
At an initial meeting, clients need only bring a clear idea of what their wealth consists of along with a basic notion of who should inherit it and in what shares. There is no need to bring along financial documents, deeds to real estate, or other such instruments. The attorney will let you know after the initial meeting what else might be needed.
Once planning goals have been laid out and an estate scheme discussed, we will draw up first drafts of estate documents. In Georgia, these typically consist of a will, a power of attorney, a healthcare directive, and one or more testamentary trusts. Drafts are then sent to clients for review.
After the client has had an opportunity to review drafts of estate documents, there are typically more conversations, by phone or in-office, in which the drafts are discussed, changes are made, and – not infrequently – family members or other professionals are brought into the conversation. From such conversations, a final working draft of estate documents will emerge.
After final drafts have been discussed and approved, we will meet a final time to go over and sign your estate documents. This is, however, by no means the end of your estate plan, which can be a life-long process.
We contact clients at least yearly to encourage them to review their estate documents and to update them as to any changes in tax or probate law that may affect their plans. Typically, we encourage an extensive review of estate plans every five years or upon the occurrence of a major life event, whichever is sooner.
What about attorney fees?
Attorneys cost more per hour than an average plumber. Clients that desire a well crafted estate plan expect this and – in our estimation – get what they pay for. By following this link, you can access a breakdown of our standard fees. At Tanner Pittman, LLC, we bill at a flat rate for most standard estate planning tools, such as wills, simple trusts, powers of attorney, etc. For time spent conferencing with clients and for complex estate matters, we charge a competitive hourly rate. Furthermore, at the outset of a representation, we take a payment known as a retainer. This money is held in trust by the firm until it is earned through legal fees.
A typical representation might break down as follows:
$400 retainer paid
- $125 simple will - $50 healthcare directive - $50 power of attorney - $150 time discussing estate with attorney
$375 total fees
$25 refunded to client after end of representation.
Naturally, estates can cost more depending upon services rendered. We look forward to scheduling an initial consultation at your convenience and to helping give you the peace of mind a well crafted estate plan can bring.
These questions are among the many that most individuals (and the majority of lawyers!) do not consider when "doing your will." Having a qualified estate planning attorney address your unique, personal situation is essential to ensuring your heirs
TANNER PITTMAN, LLC is a law firm that specializes in estate planning. Contact us today for an initial consultation, typically at no charge.