5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Houston Estate Plan Lawyer
When you begin to consider getting your legal and financial affairs in order, the first thing to do is — call the offices of the estate planning lawyer in Houston who you will meet with to handle your estate plan. This is a great opportunity for a first level screening. To find the right lawyer for you, pay attention to how the phones are answered. Will you be able to speak with the attorney, or are you handled by some generic answering service?
When you do talk with someone on the phone be sure to ask what will happen at the initial consultation. Ideally, the purpose of the first meeting with your lawyer is not just to get to know him or her, but to provide you with some guidance and information that will benefit you and your family. You want to leave this meeting with a clear action plan for what your next steps are, along with the lawyer’s recommendations for ensuring that your affairs will be set up in the best way possible for you and your family.
Second, you want to find out certain information, such as, how often should you review your legal documents, and what happens if you want to make changes later. Far too often, families put in place legal documents and they think great that’s done now. (“I don’t have to think about that anymore”). Then, the end of their life comes, or a crisis pops up, and their family finds out that the documents are out of date, and certain updates would have greatly helped the family handle the then current situation.
Anyway, then, the estate plan that is out of date doesn’t perform properly. Why does this happen? Because some lawyers are not setting the right expectations for their clients. The truth of the matter is legal documents are not “set it and forget it.” Your wills, estate planning documents, and trust business documents need to be reviewed regularly, and updated throughout your life. You want to find a lawyer who can offer you guidance for reviewing your documents regularly, and who offers a program to provide you with continuing guidance on an ongoing basis.
The third thing to know before hiring a lawyer is — can they help you make smart choices about things like buying insurance, financial and retirement plan and helping you get your financial house in order? Your personal lawyer can and should be able to guide you in making decisions, not only about things like legal documents, but also about general guidance on financial matters, taxes and getting your finances organized.
This doesn’t mean your lawyer needs to be licensed to sell insurance or financial products or practice every kind of law, just that they have a breadth of experience and knowledge, so that they can be a trusted advisor to you on these issues, helping you avoid expensive mistakes.
Fourth, what sorts of things can you put in place to ensure your kids are always taken care of by people you want, and in the manner you want, and won’t lose their inheritance to predators or creditors.
Today, there are strategies in legal planning that allow you to have the maximum assurance that your children will never be left in the care of anyone you wouldn’t want, even in the short term, while the authorities are figuring out what to do. Be sure that your lawyer provides a comprehensive kids protection plan for the care of minor children, including ID cards for your wallet and instructions for your caregivers, listing out the names and numbers of local people who have legal authority to care for your kids, if you can’t.
Fifth, what set of legal estate planning documents best fit your current family situation. Some families have more complex planning issues to deal with than others. Several types of questions should be asked to help determine what planning documents best fit your needs:
- Will you need a trust created during your lifetime, or is that better dealt with in you will?
- Do you have any special needs family members that need to be provided for?
- How stable are the marriages of your married children?
- Are you expecting to add members to your family through birth or adoption?
- Are you expecting any large expenditures or inheritances?
This is just a sample of the types of questions that should help guide the decision on what documents best fit your needs. Asking these questions and hearing the right answers before you engage a lawyer to work on your wills, trusts, estate planning or business will ensure that you put in place legal planning for your family and your business that will work when you need it.
Nick C. Caridas, Estate Planning Lawyer – Houston