Hiring an estate attorney can feel like a daunting task. If you aren’t a legal professional yourself, you may worry about how you can evaluate a lawyer’s skills and experience, or whether the lawyer is truly a good fit for your situation.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best estate attorney to help with estate planning, distribution, or probate.
Choose a local estate lawyer
A local lawyer is usually the best choice to help with estate planning or distribution. Someone who lives in the same area as the estate owner will have the best understanding of local laws that can affect the estate distribution. Even if you already know a “big name” lawyer from another area, it usually makes sense to choose someone local for estate-related matters.
A local estate lawyer will also be relatively accessible when you have questions. If they need to visit in person, they will be able to arrive fairly quickly. They also won’t charge significant sums for travel-related expenses, which can add quite a bit to the usual legal expenses for farther-away lawyers.
Personal referrals are often a great way to find an estate attorney. You likely have neighbors, colleagues, or friends who have been through the estate planning process. It’s a good idea to ask people in your community if they can recommend a local estate lawyer, and what their experience with that lawyer was like.
If you can’t get a referral, you can also look for local estate attorneys online. Most reputable lawyers have an online presence, and you can find some candidates through a quick Google search. You can scan online reviews to see if there are any patterns in people’s experiences. Just remember to take reviews with a grain of salt, as some “customer” reviews can be fake and people are more likely to write reviews when they’re upset.
Look for relevant experience
Lawyers tend to specialize in a few areas of practice. A lawyer who get great results in insurance cases may not have much experience with estate planning, and vice versa.
The best estate lawyer will have significant experience with situations like yours. They will understand the complexities of your estate situation and how to best deal with them. This experience should come through during your initial consultation.
It’s always good to get information before hiring someone for a job, and that includes hiring an estate attorney. You may want to ask about their experience, insight, communication style, and fees during your initial consultation, with questions like these:
- How long have you been practicing?
- How much experience do you have with planning estates like mine?
- How long do you expect the estate planning or distribution process to take in my situation?
- Do you work alone or with a team? If you have a team, can I meet the other team members who will be working on my estate planning?
- Will you be my point of contact, or will it be someone else, such as a paralegal?
- How will I be able to contact you or the paralegal? What are the best ways to reach you?
- How soon should I expect a reply when I contact you?
- Will you send me updates about the status of my estate plan, or should I expect to take the initiative?
- What is your fee structure? Do you have an hourly or fixed rate, and are any charges not included in that rate?
- Do you have a cost estimate for this project? Is there anything I can do to keep costs down?
Your estate attorney should be open about their experience and process from the beginning. If they seem transparent now, you can probably trust them to be straightforward with you in the future.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable With Your Estate Attorney
It’s OK to shop around a little to find the right estate attorney. You need a lawyer you can build a good relationship with, regardless of why you’re hiring them. If you’re uncomfortable with the way a lawyer interacts with you during your interviews, or if something they’ve said about their processes rings alarm bells in your mind, it’s perfectly fine to look for another legal professional.
You don’t need to hire an estate attorney after an initial consultation. A consultation is just what it sounds like — a meeting where you talk with the lawyer to decide what you should do next, including whether you want to move forward with that lawyer.
Estate attorneys in Snohomish County
The Anderson Hunter Law Firm has been helping clients in the Snohomish County area for over 100 years. We are proud to offer our community high-quality legal services at fair prices, including estate planning and probate services.
We currently have four estate planning and probate attorneys on staff:
- Amy Allison specializes in helping families and individuals with all aspects of estate planning, including Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, and sophisticated wealth transfer strategies. Her practice also covers probate and trust administration. Amy also works on real estate transactions, business formations and transactions, and business succession planning. She has been at the Anderson Hunter Law Firm since 2003.
- Jeffrey H. Capeloto’s primary practice areas include estate planning, business formation, business purchase and sale, and real estate transactions. Before earning his JD, Jeff worked as a tax accountant for several years. He has been at the Anderson Hunter Law Firm since 1986.
- G. Geoffrey Gibbs is one of the most active trial attorneys in Snohomish County. Geoff often litigates estate and will contests, guardianships, and real property and boundary disputes. He has also worked in all areas of family and domestic law, as well as business and commercial litigation. He has been at the Anderson Hunter Law Firm since 2005 and has represented clients at all court levels, including the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
- Krista MacLaren helps families with estate planning probate administration, as well as related real estate and business issues. She has been at the Anderson Hunter Law Firm since 2020 and previously worked as a solo attorney in Seattle for 11 years.
Request a consultation with us today if you need help with estate planning in the Puget Sound area.