How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on July 23, 2020

Choosing an estate planning attorney can seem like a daunting task–especially if you don’t know where to begin. We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to choose an estate planning attorney in Tennessee to get you started on the process.

1. Ask A Financial Advisor

Depending on the size of your estate, any businesses you may own, or any inheritances you may have acquired, you may utilize the services of a financial advisor in the maintenance of your assets.

If you do, a financial advisor may be a great resource for finding an estate planning attorney who can work with you on your plans. In addition, when you find an estate planning attorney you would like to work with, you’ll likely want to pair the two together. Why? Chances are your financial advisor will want to check that all of your assets are correct and included in your estate plan.

2. Ask An Accountant

If you don’t have a financial advisor, that’s okay! Less than 20% of Americans do. But chances are, you have used an accountant in the past, even if to just file your taxes. 

Though the estate planning industry is rather vast, your local accountant will likely know of a trusted attorney near you who is familiar with both state and federal laws.

3. Contact the State Bar Association

If your request for referrals hasn’t gotten you very far, go to the source–your state bar association.

The Tennessee Bar Association has a database of lawyers you can search through to find someone near you however, you have to follow a few steps:

  • Select your region: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, or Southeast Tennessee.
  • Contact your regional bar association.
  • Then, you will be put in touch with a pre-screened lawyer who you can make a short appointment with.
  • This meeting will help you decide if you want to hire this lawyer, what the approximate cost will be, etc.

Remember, these attorneys may or may not charge a small fee for this initial meeting so be sure to ask that when you are making the appointment.

4. Consult Other Attorneys You Have Used

Though the legal field is competitive, attorneys often know one another, especially when they work in similar regions. If you have a family law, personal injury, or tax attorney you already work with, reach out to see if they know of any estate planning attorneys who can help.

Depending on the practice you’ve worked with before, they may even work closely with this other firm. Don’t be afraid to reach out and see who they recommend.

5. Review Attorney Advertisements

Whether you read your local newspaper in print or online, you may stumble across attorney advertising. In October, this is even more likely as it is National Estate Planning Awareness Month. 

But no matter the time of year, chances are your local estate planning attorneys will be taking on clients. They may even run incentives to create wills, trusts, and more.

6. Ask Around

Of course, you’ll want to ask legal professionals if you work with them regularly about a trusted estate planning attorney. But if you’ve never needed an attorney, don’t have an accountant or financial advisor, and just don’t know what to believe when it comes to attorney advertisements, ask around.

Coworkers, family members, and friends may know of an estate planning attorney in your area, even if it’s just by what their inner circle has said. Remember, you are not beholden to any attorney that is suggested to you, so look around, ask questions, and do your research.

7. Ask The Right Questions

If you’ve found a few estate planning attorneys you’d like to check out, be prepared for that initial meeting. Some attorneys only handle large estates while others are well-versed in all forms of Tennessee estate planning. 

Some questions you may have in regards to estate planning may be:

  • Do I need a trust?
  • Who should be my trustee?
  • What taxes will my family have to be prepared for?
  • What types of medical documents should I create?
  • Can I change my will?

In addition to specific questions on estate plans, you will also want to learn who you will work with most, what the firm charges, and who will be your point of contact. If you need personalized attention, working with a paralegal or being directed by a secretary via phone calls may not be what you are looking for.

Finding an estate planning attorney to take you through all of life’s changes is challenging. But it’s important you find someone you can trust. While this seven-step process is not all-encompassing, it’s a great starting point to finding your estate planning attorney.