Monday, June 15, 2009

15 Questions You Must Ask Your Estate Planning Professional

If you've ever hired anyone to prepare a will or a trust, or if you've been thinking about doing so, there are a few questions you simply must ask. Why? Because planning an estate is important--it's important to you and your family. You should know if the professional you work with is experienced and knowledgeable. You should know if the professional you work with cares about the future success of your plan. And, you should know upfront what the entire cost of the plan will be over your lifetime and beyond, not just the fee that is charged to draft the documents.

Here are fifteen questions you must ask when selecting and working with an estate planning professional:
  1. Please tell me about your interest, background and experience in the planning field. What percentage of your practice is in estate planning?
  2. How do you define estate planning?
  3. What is your counseling philosophy?
  4. What is your process for working with me to assure that my plan works?
  5. How will you counsel me to design my plan?
  6. How do we assure that my assets are controlled by my instructions contained in my planning documents? Who is responsible for this coordination, you or me?
  7. How do we assure that my plan stays current with changes in the law?
  8. What is the level of involvement of my family in the planning process?
  9. How do you charge for your services? Specifically, how much will my estate be charged after I'm gone? What if I'm disabled?
  10. (If living trust attorney) What is your record with regard to probate? (What percentage of your trust-based plans wind up having assets probated? Do you charge differently for these assets?
  11. Do you handle the filing of death tax returns if they're necessary? If you do, how do you charge for that service?
  12. What happens if something happens to you?
  13. How do I prepare for our consultation?
  14. What type of service should I expect from you?
  15. Do you expect any commitments from me?
While none of these questions alone should make or break your decision on whether to hire a particular estate planning professional, the answers provided will give you a greater understanding of who the professional is and the process the professional employs while working with client.

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