Becky Cholewka: Good afternoon, everyone. I wanted to share some tips about how to find an estate planning attorney.
I get this question all the time about, “How do I know if I’m hiring someone that is right for me?” Let me give you a couple of questions that you can go ahead and ask an attorney if you’re interviewing them to become your estate planning attorney.
Number one, you want to find out what percentage of their practice is devoted to estate planning. Estate planning is a really dense area of law and it actually takes about five years to become just proficient at it.
You really want someone who is truly dedicating a large portion of their practice just to this estate planning arena. For example, here at Cholewka Law, estate planning is about 90% of what we do. It’s really, truly the only area we really focus in.
Another question that you can always ask is, “How many plans have you actually completed?” That’s going to be a really good indication if this is something that this attorney specializes in.
You don’t want someone who’s maybe done a plan or two a month, or a week, or even over the course of their entire career. You really want someone who is at least doing a good 6 to 10 plans every month. That means they are actually consistently working on estate planning.
Here at Cholewka Law, we probably see anywhere between 120 to 140 estate planning clients a year. Again, because it is the main part of what we do here.
Another question that you can ask an attorney is, “How many continuing education credits do you have specifically in this practice area?”
Every attorney in Arizona needs to complete an additional 15 units of continuing education every year in order to keep our license. Three of those credits have to be in ethics. The other 12 can be in whatever we want.
You really want to make sure that whoever you’re working with is absolutely staying on top of this practice area. There are a lot of changes in estate planning not only at the state level, but also with federal rules and regulations, and IRS laws as well.
That’s another good thing to ask, “How many continuing education credits?” I probably average anywhere from 30 to 40 continuing education credits every year just in estate planning. Make sure you’re asking that question as well.
Another question to ask, and I get this a lot and I share this a lot at my seminars. When people are preparing estate planning documents there tends to be…At least I’ve seen hundreds come through my office that are very simplistic and they aren’t even that many pages long.
A really great question, if you’re wanting to get a trust done is ask that attorney, “You know what? How many pages typically does one of your trusts…How big is it?” That’s a really good indication.
I’ve seen a lot of trusts recently that are anywhere from 8 to 20 pages long. To give you an idea, our joint trusts here are about a hundred pages long. Our individual trusts for individual clients are about 80 to 85 pages long.
These are really comprehensive estate planning documents. You don’t want to have very short, simple documents in place. You want documents that are actually going to work.
If you are not planning on using us, I hope these questions help you find a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to meet the needs of your family. Also, if you need referrals to any other types of lawyers in the area, please feel free to give us a call at 480-397-4770. We network all the time with other great attorneys and we are happy to share their contact information.