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Qualities of a Competent Estate Planning Attorney

In California, the good news is, the fee is set by statute, so what an attorney is paid will be based on the value of the estate. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to hire the right attorney. Now that we have the Internet, it’s more possible than ever to investigate attorneys, to see their experience and qualifications, to see if there are referrals, whether or not they have state bar complaints, or been sued; what you really want to find out is whether or not the attorney is competent, so do your due diligence.

Another thing people should do, but often forget, is to verify that the attorney has malpractice insurance, because if they make a mistake, you want to make sure you can recover on the claim.  So, use the Internet, get referral and investigate; make sure you’re hiring the right person for the job. Don’t hire a family law lawyer to handle your probate, for the same reason you shouldn’t hire a probate lawyer to handle your divorce.

What Should I Ask An Attorney that Handles Probate and Estate Planning?

Ask about their experience; ask them how many probates have they handled in the last 10 years, and ask if they’ve been sued for one. Also, ask if they handle litigation claims, and if you’ll need to hire another attorney for those. Ask a lot of general questions, about where they went to law school and whether they have malpractice insurance.

What Do Clients Typically Want to Know Regarding Probate?

When people walk in, the uncertainty of what’s going on can be overwhelming; they’re dealing with someone who died recently died and there is a lot happening, including emotional issues as well financial and legal issues. The number one thing people want from me is just some clarity, so when they first meet with me, I try to get them to focus on each individual area and deal with them one at a time. As far as the emotional part of the situation, I help them deal with the grief and the emotional strain that it has on the family, whether that means referring them out to counselors, therapists or spiritual advisors etc.

On the financial side, I will try to find out if there is a trust or a will, and as far as the legal process, I just explain what I have to do, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Once people have clarity about what they’re really dealing with, it becomes a lot easier for them to manage the situation personally and the impact on their own personal life is less widespread and destructive.  People just want clarity; they want to understand, and for someone to cut through the fear and misconceptions and have someone tell them exactly what’s going on, what they can expect and what they need to do.

What Is the Most Difficult Aspect of a Probate for an Attorney?

The worst aspect has to be dealing with the family fighting. Again, my job is to get everyone to settle down, and that’s where the clarity is very important; I have to provide information and clarification, and once I do, everyone involved seems to settle down and understand, and they feel a lot better.

It’s like any situation you deal with; if you don’t understand what’s going on and there’s uncertainty and mystery, it creates a lot of anxiety. But once you provide people with information about what they’re dealing with and explain how the whole thing works, generally everything moves along pretty well.

For more information on Hiring the Right Attorney, please call (858) 278-2800 today to schedule a free initial consultation. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

San Diego Estate PLanning Guide by Steven Bliss

Fundamentals of
Estate Planning

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