Estate Planning Isn’t Just For The Elderly

Happy, smiling couple in their sixties.

Tips for Working with Attorneys

Tips for Working with Attorneys

  1. As with most professionals, efficient use of time is of significant importance to attorneys
    • (a) Thus-if you are working with an attorney for a client, it is of significant importance to be organized and have appropriate/needed information and documents readily available.
  2. Prior to consultation with attorney and client- Advisable to have “pre-consult telephone conference and/or meeting with attorney” to review objectives and goals for client.
    • (a) As you may have a long standing relationship with client, you may be best able to assess ability of client to comprehend complex planning
    • (b) Needs/Wants/Objectives of Client
    • (c) Family Dynamics of Client- Relationship of Husband and Wife- Parents and Children
    • (d) Legal Fee Tolerance of Client- is client willing/able to spend legal fees for his or her planning needs- or is this the kind of client happy with documents from Legal Zoom
    • (e) During the pre-consultation telephone conference is where you should do any questioning or second guessing of the attorneys proposed planning strategy for the client

    **Attorneys, like Doctors, don’t like to be second guessed in front of a potential client

  3. (f) Pre-consultation telephone conference is where legal fees should be discussed with the attorney
  4. (g) One of the most frustrating things for attorneys is to spend 1 ½ to 2 hours with a client and to later be told that the insurance agent/financial advisor had referred the client to another attorney who just so happened to quote a lower fee than you did.
  5. (h) Creating bidding wars among attorneys is something you should try to avoid at all costs. It will seriously impact your relationship among attorneys.

** Shouldn’t advise a potential attorney for client what another attorney quoted- Just not fair and appropriate- differing levels of expertise/knowledge/skills.

    • Avoid trying to give comments/directions to attorneys regarding the legal terms of the trust, particularly as to legal issues.
    • Do your homework before referring a client to an attorney- research their curriculum vital online
      • – Does the attorney have any accreditations
      • – Has he or she received any recognition/awards/designations
      • – Is he or she a regular public speaker/presenter for attorneys and other professional groups
      • – A lot of this information is available online
      • – Has he or she published articles about Estate Planning and Elder Law

      Just because an attorney is a member of your networking group/church/temple/or a relative, doesn’t mean he or she is best suited for the needs of your client.

      Look at levels of experience/expertise/focus and concentration of the attorney.

    • Try to allow the client to have a relationship independent and apart with the attorney from you.
    • Treat the attorney with respect (Sounds like a no brainer) however, I have met insurance and financial professionals that have treated the attorneys like tools.

– Unless you are aware of an error/typo in drafting committed by attorney- generally should avoid all other comments
– Avoid saying things like- “I did some research on the interest about credit shelter trusts and…”

Sometimes being overprotective of client can negatively impact client’s relationship with the attorney.

The thought that the attorney can simply punch a key and out pops documents suitable for the client is generally far from the truth.

While it is true that a lot of Estate Planning documents are on the computer, there is still a great deal of personalization of the documents that needs to be done for each individual client
Demand that the attorney/his office treat you and the clients courteously and with respect.

Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP