Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney

Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney

All estate planning attorneys do not do things exactly the same way. While they all do similar things, their procedures are not the same, their documents vary, and they charge differently.

Some attorneys provide a lengthy information sheet for you to fill out before you come in. Our experience is that such extensive homework prevents many people from following through with getting their planning done. We ask for two things: a one-page financial and a simple family tree – and we insist that you not spend more than 20 minutes on it.

Lawyers charge differently. In a separate article on this website, I have explained in some detail why we charge on an hourly basis, but within a narrow range. Others charge a flat fee, which tend to be either very expensive (getting a lot that you may not need) or they are very low (you get cookie-cutter products). Our hourly rate is fair and reasonable.

Many attorneys insist that the Revocable Living Trust (RLT) should be the primary planning vehicle for estate planning, largely to avoid probate. But Virginia and DC both have relatively simple probate systems. For Virginia and DC residents, the RLT is more expensive to create, provides little benefit in administration and often has other problems. We generally recommend Wills even for larger, more complicated estates, as the most cost-effective way to plan one’s estate.

Many estate planning attorneys are solo and limit their practice to estate planning. By contrast, our firm has a broad range of practice areas. For example, in addition to estate planning, I handle business transactional matters as well as real estate and land use issues. Others in our firm handle commercial and real estate transactions/litigation, family law and criminal defense. Depending on your potential need for legal services, a broad-based firm may better fit your needs. Call us and we’d be happy to talk with you about our services.

For you to figure out who is best for you, you should consider talking with more than one attorney to find the one with whom you are most comfortable and whose processes and costs meet your expectations.

In the Alexandria area, there are many well-respected estate planning attorneys. If you contact us, I will be happy to give you the names and contact information of several of those attorneys.