A recent statement made by LawPRO has identified a growing concern within the legal community. The average annual number of claims against lawyers who have mishandled the preparation of a will or estate has doubled in the last ten years. Why? Well, there are several reasons. We have all seen the rise in property values over the past few years’ right? As property values increase, so does the potential for litigation errors. Not only does the risk for errors in this type of litigation grow, the cost of these mistakes increases as well. In addition to the rise in property values is the fact that a significant portion of the population is aging, and they getting ready to transfer their assets to the next generation of family members. It seems obvious you will want to make sure the lawyer you choose to complete this service is knowledgeable and capable of managing the intricacies of this changeover. However, finding the right lawyer isn’t always easy. This is why we at Rastin & Associates have put together the 3 things you need to know when retaining a good lawyer for your will and estate requirements:
1. A good lawyer will know the right questions to ask
One of the most critical errors that lead to loss in the wills and estates legal process is caused by lawyers simply not gathering all the facts. This means that they are either not asking you the right questions or not asking enough questions in order to adequately prepare a will. If you meet with a lawyer and they do not ask the following questions, it is time to look elsewhere;
- “Do you have an existing will?”
- If yes, “In what ways will your new will differ from your last?”
- “What has lead up to you wanting to have a will created?”
- “Are the assets you are looking to hand down held in your name?”
- “Are the assets you are looking to hand down held in your name along with someone else’s? With a Corporation?”
- “Where are your assets located?”
- “Can you give a description of all your assets?”
- “What is the dollar value of your assets?”
- “Are you in a common law or marital relationship?”
- “Are you leaving assets to any siblings or other close relations?”
- “Are your children going to be recipients of your assets?”
These questions are asked by the lawyer in order to discover any potential challenges that may arise surrounding your estate in the future. An example of a future challenge would be if you drafted a will to have everything handed down to your children but, at the same time you were knowingly entering into a marital agreement. In the event that you pass away, your new spouse would then have a legitimate claim against the estate and your children could lose out on the original amount or specific belongings that you had arranged to give to them.
2. Estate Law is complex and the lawyer should not simply “dip into” this type of litigation
The example mentioned above is just one of the many potential challenges you could come across when putting together your will or estate. This is why your estate planning should not be considered a “side business” to your lawyer. This is your livelihood and what you will be passing down to those you love. Estate lawyers are required to be knowledgeable in multiple disciplines of common law and legislations. Remember, there is no such thing a “simple will”, as there are many moving parts. If the lawyer does not have a specific expertise; using tax law as an example, they should be able to recognize they are required to seek outside advice and speak to a tax specialist.
3. Ask questions & do your research!
Do not be afraid to ask your lawyer questions. Estate lawyers should be able to ease your mind by communicating accurate and timely responses, in a language that you will understand. If your lawyer is unable to demonstrate a high level of competency as well as offer you the best value of service for your money, you don’t have the right lawyer. When you do not retain the right lawyer, you run the risk of yourself or your family having to file a malpractice claim. Conducting research on the lawyer you would like to speak to about your estate is also extremely important. We suggest looking up testimonials, reviews, as well as the educational background and professional background of the lawyer you going to hire.
We hope this post provides you with a guide on what to look for when seeking a lawyer to help you with your will and estate.
Fun fact, Rastin & Associates is an expert in will and estate litigation!
For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call 1-844-RASTIN1. You can also check our location listing for an office near you.