Finding the Best Estate Planning Attorney for Your Family

Few things are more important to the success of your estate plan than the attorney you choose to design and draft it. Almost as important is the relationship that is formed between that attorney and other professional advisors who serve you in the areas of financial advice and accounting.

All successful estate planning is the result of several professions working together for the good of the client. However, professionals of one group sometimes have misconceptions of professionals belonging to other groups. For example, the financial advisor may see the estate planning attorney as little more than a document scrivener. But this is far from the truth.

Many attorneys who limit their practice to estate planning are values-based, relationship-driven, client-centered and counseling-oriented. And the good ones are willing to work together with other professionals on your behalf. They understand that thorough estate planning involves more than just legal advice. The key is to find those attorneys who meet this description.

So where do you find these rare creatures? How do you know if you’re dealing with the right kind of attorney? The right kind of attorney will have an orientation toward relationship-building and counseling rather than mere document preparation. The first thing he or she will offer is the ability to listen carefully to not only your goals – but also your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for yourself and your loved ones. The attorney will carry on a sensitive dialogue that will enable you to make clear your wishes to maintain control over your affairs, to be cared for properly in the event of a disability and to provide meaningfully for your loved ones after you are gone.

It’s About More Than Just Taxes

Any competent estate planning attorney can help you navigate the legal intricacies and tax laws that pertain to the passing of wealth. But the right kind of estate planning attorney will also be interested in your desire to pass along more than just money. He or she will ask about and explain how to accomplish such things as:

ofunding the education of offspring for several generations

omeeting philanthropic goals that will leave a legacy for your community

opreserving family history and stories that support the values you believe in

ocontinuing or divesting a family business

ocaring for a surviving spouse regardless of circumstances

oand much more.

On a less positive, but equally important note, the right kind of attorney will ask about such things as:

othe complexities of the family relationships that may exist due to second marriage situations

othe special health needs of a grandchild

othe son or daughter-in-law who is not to be trusted

othe child or grandchild who is a spendthrift or suffers from substance abuse

Such in-depth counseling forms a strong foundation on which a long-term relationship is built. That relationship is important because an estate plan is not a transaction. Rather, it’s an ongoing process that should be reviewed from time to time throughout your life – and potentially survives through several generations. You may choose to involve your adult children in the planning process, and the right attorney will build a relationship with them as well.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Another trait of the right kind of attorney is true commitment to the team approach in estate planning. A good estate planning attorney recognizes that every member of the planning team (including the investment advisor, the insurance professional and the CPA) is vital to the success of the plan. The right attorney will involve the other advisors in the long-term relationship you have to the degree that you are comfortable with that arrangement.

Legal documents are not enough. Even documents that have been drafted from in-depth counseling and are custom-designed to meet the unique needs of the client are not enough. Documents standing alone are like the proverbial automobile without fuel.

The documents’ instructions only apply to assets that are properly owned.

For example, a will only controls those things owned in the individual’s name–not jointly. The trust only controls those things owned by the trustee of the trust. An irrevocable life insurance trust works only if it is properly funded with a suitable insurance policy. Advanced entities require careful balancing of assets for maximum effectiveness. Accurate valuation of your business interests is imperative. New planning tools often require additional accounting and tax advice.

Financial and insurance advisors, as well as accountants, provide the fuel that is needed to help ensure that appropriate financial assets are allocated and funded correctly, offer necessary valuations and tax returns, and provide the means for proper balance within the plan. The estate planning attorney you work with should not only recognize these truths, but be cooperative and collegial with the other professionals that are providing these things.

Each member of the interdisciplinary team provides a cross-check for the other members. If there is disagreement among the professionals on a strategy or its implementation, it can be discussed and worked out between them as a team. After all, estate planning is both an art and a science. In this way, you are served with unanimous agreement among the professionals instead of getting contradicting advice from multiple sources. Mutual respect and clear protocols will characterize the interdisciplinary team that is working well together. Each team member will know exactly what is expected of him or her, and communication with each other and with you will be constant and clear.

As mentioned, the right kind of attorney will be focused on a long-term (even multi-generational) relationship you and your family. Therefore, the attorney will not have a transactional approach to the estate plan, but rather a process approach. An estate plan is never really done until the person doing the planning has passed away and every instruction for every beneficiary of every subsequent generation has been carried out. Those who speak of the plan in the past tense (“They did their estate plan…”) may have a shortsighted perspective.

A Strategic Process to Support the Relationships

The client-centered attorney will ensure that everything possible is done so that the plan is carried to fruition and your expectations are met.

There is nothing as constant as change. Your personal, family and financial situations change all the time. Kids get married and have children; there are divorces and remarriages; real estate and financial assets change value as the market goes up or down; a child marries someone you don’t approve of; a grandchild gets involved with drugs; you win the lottery; and so on.

In addition, laws (both tax and non-tax) change constantly. First we have an estate tax. Then we’re told the estate tax isn’t so bad. The estate tax is abolished. Oops, the estate tax is back! Assets in retirement accounts and trusts are protected from creditors and predators. But then a court in one state says that some protected assets may not be protected in certain circumstances. There’s no way that a will or a trust drafted 20 years ago (or even 5 years ago) is current with all those changes. So updating and maintenance of the plan are required in order for it to work.

The other thing that is constantly changing (or should be) is the growth and education of the attorney and every advisor working with you on your plan. Over time, new planning strategies are developed, new tools are discovered, and there are better ways to accomplish a goal. Of course, you will continue growing as well, and your goals for the plan could change.

The right estate planning attorney has systems in place to ensure he or she stays in touch with you, that the rest of the planning team knows of changes, and that there are methods to adjust the plan in light of those changes. As every member of the planning team focuses on the needs of the client, the process will run smoothly, and you will be more comfortable with the advice that is given and the decisions you make.
The attorney will also be aware that for a plan to work well, the people who will help in the future need to know what’s going on.

If the children will someday serve as trustees and personal representatives, the attorney might be involved in teaching those children what to do. If ongoing trusts have been established to protect those children and grandchildren, the other advisors should be available to continue serving as advisors to the subsequent generations instead of losing that expertise and familiarity. The client-centered interdisciplinary approach can make that happen.

Your Role in the Estate Planning Process

Your role in the process is an active role, not a passive one. You should avoid the attorney who is content with simply telling you what to do, and then throwing together some documents to accomplish it. That is the attorney’s plan – not yours.

In summary, if you’re working with the right estate planning attorney, you should plan on being involved in three distinct steps:

1. Develop a plan with counseling-oriented (rather than document-oriented) professionals.

2. Commit you and your family to an ongoing maintenance and education program.

3. Assure that your wisdom is passed along with your wealth.

As you consider those you love, and those material things that you’ll someday leave behind, only a properly designed and implemented estate plan can ensure that your goals for those loved ones are accomplished.

Many estate plans in America don’t work. They often consist of fill-in-the-blank documents, delivered in a one-time transaction, and never updated. If that’s all an attorney can offer, that’s not the right attorney for you. Choose an attorney that is counseling-oriented, values-based, and as strong on relationships as he or she is on the law.

Stand-In Attorneys Don’t Hold Water in Some Courts

Today with the increased bankruptcy filings throughout the Nation, attorneys are changing the way the run their practices. The model that is being developed does not sit well with many including the courts.

When a client comes in and meets with an attorney and then signs a representation agreement, that may be the last time, the file or that attorney even touches the file. Clients need to be sure to question the attorney to be sure that the attorney is doing more than meeting and turning over the file to an associate or paralegal. It is also key to ask whether that attorney will appear with you in Court matters, e.g. Meeting of Creditors.

The Courts have noted that they do not approve of this “model” of attorneys office practices.

In a recent opinion by Judge Jeff Bohn (Consumer Bankruptcy News – Volume 23, Issue 19) he stated:

“The use of appearance attorneys deprives clients… Such a practice is insulting to the client, the Court, and the principles upon which the judicial system is built. Attorneys are not fungible. Attorneys are not all equal to each other, either in their courtroom abilities, their understanding of the law, or in their communicative skills.”

Clients choose a firm and an attorney for a reason, and clients have a right to be represented by the attorney of their choice during all portions of their case.

The justification for certain consumer bankruptcy attorneys that their business model will not work unless they are allowed to use appearance attorneys HOLDS NO WATER with this Court. If a firm’s business model conflicts with the professional standards of the legal profession, the former must give way to the latter.”

Be sure to ask when you interview or have your first meeting with an attorney, who will be handling my case?

  • An assistant,
  • Another attorney,
  • Appearance attorney???

When an attorney takes a case, they should initially meet with the client to understand and become familiar with the client’s needs. After that time, a Representation Agreement is agreed upon and signed.

As for Bankruptcies, there are many important deadlines and criteria to meet to finalize what type of bankruptcy is right for the client. During this time, a learning period begins for the attorney where he/she becomes very familiar with the case and interacts closely with the clients.

As the information and data are collected from the client, the attorney is able to fully understand not only the client but also the details of the case. Most of the time, there is a great deal of interaction between the client and the attorney. Much is learned about the client’s financial situation, spending habits, debts, how the debts occurred and the household income, etc.

At the 341(a) Meeting of Creditor’s is scheduled, the attorney presents his client to the Trustee and is there to assist and explain the petition that was put together for the client.

If an attorney who worked on the case does not come to Meeting of Creditors but sends an alternate attorney, how can that alternate attorney/stand-in attorney provide the proper representation and support to that client?

I don’t recommend having someone stand-in for an attorney when dealing with bankruptcy cases. Do you?

Should You Hire An Accident Attorney

You have been in an accident, automobile, slip and fall, workplace, etc.. Should you see or speak with an attorney?

As far as I am concerned, the answer is always yes.

When should you consult with an accident attorney? You should seek the advise of an accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Do not wait. You could be giving up certain rights. You should definitely speak with an attorney before speaking with the other sides insurance agent, adjuster or attorney.

You say that you can not afford an attorney. Most accident attorneys will consult with you for free and, if they take your case, will handle it on a contingency basis, not taking any fee until the case is settled. Most settlements are increased to cover the cost of the attorney and therefore normally the attorney costs you nothing. Many attorneys will also advance all court costs for you if they are forced to file suit.

You say that you were injured, however, the insurance company has offered to pay your medical bills and you do not feel it is right to take advantage of them by asking for additional money for your, pain, suffering, lost work, etc.. Don’t you feel that you as a person are worth something? Do you think so little of yourself that you feel that your pain, suffering, inconvenience, etc. is worthless. You did not cause this accident. What you are going through was caused by someone else. You deserve to be compensated. The insurance company, as a matter of good business, has already built these types of costs into the premiums that they charge their customers. If the money does not go to you it will probably go to their shareholders or to increased salaries or ?. Why shouldn’t you be properly compensated. Remember most good attorneys are ethical and although they will attempt to obtain as much money for you as is due, they will not take your case unless they feel that it is proper.

You say someone else admitted liability and said that their insurance will pay all your damages. That’s great, however, what if the person changes his or her story later on and says that you were at fault. Or what if the other side’s insurance company refuses to pay what you think is proper. In fact, how do you know what is proper? Remember, an insurance company may pay claims, but it is in business to make money. It normally will not offer one dollar more than it has to and if you are not represented by an attorney the insurance company adjuster or attorney may feel that he or she can “get away” with paying much less than the claim may be worth. Additionally, what people state at the time of an accident is not always what they state after having spoken with a friend, insurance agent or attorney. Finally, an insurance adjuster or insurance attorney works for the insurance company, not for you. How do you know that what they are telling you is correct or true. Remember, in most instances, they are there to try and save the company money. You need an attorney on your side to tell you what your rights and obligations are.

You say that you were not hurt that bad or at all. How do you know how badly you were hurt. Some injuries do not show up for months. Other injuries may aggravate a prior problem. Even if you have been found to be “ok” by a doctor, how do you know that a problem will not come up later. If you have insurance and did go to a doctor, who is going to pay your co-pay or deductible. If you do not have health insurance, who is going to pay for your examination which should include xrays, etc.. If you retain an attorney he or she can probably refer you to a doctor who will accept a lien against the insurance settlement, thereby saving you from paying money out of your pocket.

You say you have accident insurance, why not let them handle everything for you. Your insurance company is there to defend any claims against you not to represent you in any claims against other parties. Additionally, they also are in business to make money. How do you know if they are trying to settle a case to help you or to save themselves money.

The foregoing article was written by the author based on experiences he has had as a private investigator representing both accident attorneys and insurance companies. This article is not stated as a legal opinion or as fact but instead is stated as opinion of the author.

Permission is given to reprint this article providing credit is given to the author, David G. Hallstrom, and a link is listed to Resources For Attorneys the owner of this article. Anyone or any company reprinting this article without giving proper credit and the correct link, is doing so without permission and will be subject to legal action.

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┬ęCopyright 2004 Resources For Attorneys. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

The following article was written for Resources For Attorneys.com by David Hallstrom, a private investigator, he is not now nor has he ever been an attorney.

Permission is given to reprint this article providing credit is given to the author, David G. Hallstrom, and a link is listed to Resources For Attorneys the owner of this article. Anyone or any company reprinting this article without giving proper credit and the correct link, is doing so without permission and will be subject to legal action.

Find the Best Criminal Defense Attorney For Your Case

A person charged with a crime, particularly for the first time, may be in a real quandary. How do they find the best criminal attorney for my case? Many people will have family members or friends who know lawyers but is that the best attorney for their case? The Internet is saturated with attorneys claiming to be experts but how reliable are their websites? This article briefly outlines some of the factors you want to consider in choosing a criminal defense attorney.

  1. Find an attorney with experience. See how long the he or she has practiced law. Ensure they specialize in criminal law. Examine their website and pay particular attention to the types of cases he or she has handled.
  2. Hire an attorney with jury trial experience. Asked the attorney how many jury trials he or she has conducted. An attorney with jury trial experience provide you with the greatest opportunity for an acquittal if you are not guilty or if the prosecution cannot prove their case; and, the maximum leverage in negotiating a plea in a case in which you are guilty. Judges and prosecutors know those who are not afraid to try a case; those that carry the most respect and are offered the best dispositions for their clients.
  3. Ensure that the attorney has tried your type of case. Some may only specialize in murder cases; that is all they do. They may not be the best for your drunk driving or your drug case. Be sure that the attorney you have selected has successfully defended a case similar to yours.
  4. Make sure the attorney you are hiring will be the attorney who handles your case. If you go to a large law firm you may speak to a partner who specializes in your type of case; however, that partner may pass your case to an associate with less experience. Be sure the partner will be representing you in court.
  5. Look for a professional website. A successful attorney will have a professional looking website. If the attorney is a professional he will carry himself that way in all respects, including the way he presents himself to you, in the courtroom and on his website.
  6. Asked another attorney. Attorneys in private practice know attorneys who specialized in all fields of law. If you have a family attorney that handles your real estate or probate matters that attorney can probably identify an excellent criminal attorney.
  7. You get what you pay for. It is not always wise to find the cheapest attorney. Attorneys with little or no experience will often charge far less money than those attorneys with experience. Some attorneys will take a case with no intention of considering a trial. They will review it with the sole intent of having you plead guilty; the attorney should explore all avenues, including motions to dismiss, motions to suppress and trial, before having you change your plea to guilty.

Choosing an Ohio Child Support Attorney

Choosing an Ohio child support attorney can be a significant decision for any individual to make. The professional who you engage will be responsible for getting or maintaining your legal interests in your children, your material possessions, and your income. In reality, engaging an Ohio child support attorney might be a significantly difficult experience. Do it right and you can relax. Do it incorrectly and you may have to spend quite a bit of time recovering from losses that might have been avoided.

There are some time-tested tactics that you should consider applying at the time you engage an Ohio child support attorney. Prior to starting, you had better determine the type of case that you will need to retain counsel for. Could you be mediating your child support matter? Could you be negotiating? Or, might your lawsuit might be the type of matter that ends up in court and turns into a knock down, drag out child support battle?

It is possible to find an Ohio child support attorney who specializes in these different means of addressing matters and you need be sure that you hire the kind of Ohio child support attorney who is best suited to the kind of lawsuit that you will be dealing with. If you are about to confront a bitter battle, you should not select a mediation attorney to enforce your rights. And, if you are undergoing amicable mediation, the last thing you want is an Ohio child support attorney who will create problems for you and force you into litigation.

Thus, the first thing you must do in the process of hiring an Ohio child support attorney is to decide the type of lawsuit that you have. The second step, ask other people for assistance. Since the rate at which we divorce in the U.S.A. remains at about fifty percent, it is probable that you know a few other individuals who have experienced a child support suit. Inquire about their litigation, how they picked out an Ohio child support attorney, and how their attorney did on their behalf.

Subsequent to receiving feedback on several Ohio child support attorneys that you were given from checking with people, go on the internet and research each attorney and any others that you discover online. If an Ohio child support attorney has a site online, you can read it and check to find out if there are any articles on their site that they composed on child support law. You should likewise check and determine if they have promoted their website on the web on the issue of child support law. You can find quite a bit of significant information about how any individual attorney approaches legal actions and deals with their clients by screening their website.

After you have studied the Ohio child support attorney websites, compile a list of a few Ohio child support attorneys who you think you might be at ease speaking with. Contact the office of each child support attorney and schedule an initial interview/evaluation. A few of those attorneys will charge a fee for an initial appointment; the greater experience the attorney has, the more probable that you will have to pay for time with that attorney.

At the time that you go to an initial interview with any Ohio child support attorney, be ready. Write up an statement of your years of marriage, your family situation and the troubles facing you at present. If you or your mate has filed any documents in court, make it a point to take them with you. Take recent income tax returns or a recent financial statement so that the child support attorney can look at some of your financial information prior to being questioned regarding situational “outcomes”.

Be sure you ask every Ohio child support attorney questions regarding how that professional’s office manages client phone calls, emails or other questions. If you will be going through a child support attorney who has no other attorney in their office, be ready to wait on those occasions when you want a reply. That attorney probably has additional clients who have demands just as critical as yours, and any attorney can take care of only one client at a time. Even regarding that drawback, there could be an Ohio child support attorney who you sense is appropriate for your situation who is also a sole practitioner. That is a trade-off that you should be able to work with.

After you have finished each appointment and considered the answers to all of your questions, identify which Ohio child support attorney you are more at ease with and which you believe will work with you to get the sort of final result that you desire.