Here are a few suggestions for ensuring you select the right professional and that you’re paying the right price for your situation:
• Be selective: Talk to your accountant or your financial advisor about who might be a good fit for you. If you’re really starting at ground zero, search for an attorney through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or your local bar association, said Singer.
• Interview multiple estate planners: If an attorney will give you a free consultation, be ready to talk about the details of your situation and see how they define the scope of your project. What do you get for the fee you’re paying?
Further, if your estate planner is proposing a solution that may be complex and costly, ask him or her to explain why.
“Have a conversation,” said Searcy. “Give me some examples where you had a client who had a situation like mine, tell me what you did and how it worked.”
• Get ready to bring in other advisors: Estate planning is more than just coming up with a package of documents – it could mean discussing family dynamics or highlighting other potential problem areas in your finances.
“Ask the estate planner if he is open to your CPA or wealth adviser joining the meeting,” said Martin M. Shenkman, an estate and tax attorney in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
“Regardless of whether you have that done, an estate planner that welcomes other advisers is a good sign,” he said. “One that shuns other advisers is cause for worry.”
• Address your fees: Given the wide range for estate planning costs, be sure to discuss those expenses up front.
“It’s well known today that talking about fees on the front-end of a relationship is an appropriate thing to do,” said Alan Rothschild, an estate planning attorney at Page Scrantom Sprouse Tucker & Ford in Columbus, Georgia.
“You don’t know what a project costs until you know what is,” he said.