An estate planning attorney’s job can be described in simple terms as helping people prepare for what happens to what they leave behind once they are gone. While a common misconception is that estate planning attorneys are only hired by wealthy people, the truth is that there are all sorts of clients looking to prepare an estate plan that helps them map out their future desires. The reality is that regardless of your income, an estate planning attorney can be an indispensable tool for anyone wanting to leave something behind for people they care most about.
Many people don't realize that estate planning on your own isn't just time-consuming, but it's downright precarious. There are incredibly elaborate laws that go into estate planning, and if executed incorrectly, you could find yourself and your loved ones in a legal debacle.
A qualified estate planning lawyer is the best way to ensure that everything goes smoothly and your future wishes are carried out. All it takes is one error on an important document that can change the validity of a trust or will.
Why Estate Planning Attorneys are Essential
Laws Are Complex
There are many complex laws that vary from state to state that dictate different rules and formalities. Some states are very particular about what is and what is not permitted in a will, and a qualified estate planning attorney knows state laws in and out. Believe it or not, even though the US constitution says that legal documents must be recognized from one state to another, not all states fully honor this reciprocity law. An estate planning attorney is there to review your estate plan and ensure that it is valid in your state, helping you steer clear of costly mistakes that may not lead to your desired outcome in the event of your death.
Estate Attorneys Update as Needed
The reality is that estate plans need to be updated continuously as our lives change. Most people experience significant changes every year, and in some cases, even every few months. Your estate plan should reflect the changes in your life so that you can ensure your belongings go where you want them to go. For example, if you're no longer on good terms with someone who is on your will, like an ex, it's important that it be updated. Leaving behind valuable assets to someone that is no longer a part of your life is a big mistake. An estate planning attorney is there to make sure that all of your assets are up to date and that your beneficiaries are listed as who you want them to be.
At the same time, any updates to your state plan aren't always necessarily negative ones. Sometimes it's as simple as one of your family members making a lifestyle change like opening their own business. Perhaps you want to leave behind some funds to help them kickstart their company depending on certain conditions. Changes like these on your plan are made easy through the help of your attorney, who knows the right steps to take to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled and updated— without affecting the validity of your paperwork.
Most Estate Planning Advice is Based on Speculation
It's not uncommon for people to overhear estate planning advice that they assume is correct, and there is certainly no shortage of estate planning advice out there. All it takes is a few clicks online to find all sorts of uninformed information about estate planning. What people tell you may often be far from the truth, particularly when it comes to legal advice from people who haven’t studied law.
Rather than taking the risk of relying on potentially erroneous information, it's much better to get advice from a qualified attorney who is familiar with the law. Your plan needs to be as thorough as possible in order to be considered indisputable. An estate planning attorney is there to walk you through all of the procedures and make it an admissible document that stands up in court.
You Save Your Loved Ones Money
In many cases, a DIY approach to planning an estate winds up costing a person's family much more money in the end. Some states don't accept a do-it-yourself will, and as a result, your loved ones could end up spending a significant amount of money hiring an estate planning attorney themselves to rectify the situation. If your wishes were to leave funds behind to make your family's lives more comfortable and less burdened, then a scenario like this could have the opposite effect. Hiring an estate planning attorney to do your paperwork means that you don't have to worry about your loved ones receiving what you want them to receive after you're gone. If you're absolutely set on doing your own estate plan, then you should minimally have an estate planning attorney review it to ensure that there are no errors or potential issues.
Estate Planning Attorneys Understand Unique and Complex Situations
There are all sorts of elaborate and uncommon situations you can find yourself in when planning your estate. From not having any children to owning a home in more than one state, a qualified estate planning attorney can help you navigate any of your out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, which may not be easy to figure out on your own. Most importantly, estate planning attorneys can help you avoid the IRS taking the majority of your estate because you didn't receive legal counsel for your complicated situation.
So, what are the qualities that set the great estate planning attorneys apart from the "okay” ones? Let's dive in.
Not all lawyers are created equally. People who want legal counsel for leaving behind cherished possessions for their loved ones want someone that specializes in estate planning— not medical malpractice or family law. The more experience that a lawyer can have in their area of practice, the more qualified that they'll appear to prospects. The most successful estate planning attorneys are the ones that focus only on this area of practice and are dedicated to becoming a master of it. Being fully knowledgeable about estate planning means being up to date on the latest state laws in their state to ensure that a court approves of their estate plan without any interrogations or concerns.
In addition to good old-fashioned experience, it's especially appealing to find an estate lawyer that specializes in probate and trust in the particular state their client is in. An extensive amount of knowledge is the best way to ensure that they are getting their money's worth from their attorney. The more assurance that an estate planning attorney can give their clients that they are certified, specialized, and qualified in estate law, the more that they'll stand out against the competition.
Although some lawyers still bill hourly, more and more attorneys are moving towards flat fees. Since lawyers have a reputation for being expensive, there can be a lot of anxiety surrounding what the final bill will be. Many prospects looking for an estate planning attorney are extremely enthusiastic about the idea of getting a fixed price upfront. Knowing exactly what the total cost will be, helps avoid unexpected surprises and financial stress.
Lawyers who still charge hourly are often still billing this way because they're not sure how to make the transition. They may hesitate to move towards a flat fee system out of fear that the work they provide may fall short of what they get paid. The most successful estate planning firms use the power of data to take a closer look at their cases to determine how much time they put into each one and the amount of work it requires. A closer look at their metrics with legal reporting software helps them develop a fair flat fee that doesn't scare prospects away but also pays them fairly for the amount of work they deliver.
One of the most important things for legal clients is efficiency. They want to know that they've hired a lawyer to prepare their plan in a reasonable window of time. An estate planning lawyer should be able to prepare the plan within a few weeks. In many cases, lawyers don't have this kind of time on their hands because of all of the other tasks that go into running a practice, leaving their clients desperate and frustrated.
Depending on a client's unique situation, they may not have the luxury of waiting for longer than a few weeks to get the necessary documents they need prepared since their loved one may be seriously ill. Time is of the essence when it comes to estate planning, and clients want to know that they can count on a lawyer for a quick turnaround before it's too late.
The most efficient estate planning attorneys who have great reputations for efficiency are the ones that rely on technology to streamline and optimize their processes. By relying on features like legal document automation and electronic signature for legal documents, they can keep up with the demands of their clients and minimize errors, delighting their clients.
A lot goes into keeping a practice running. Unfortunately, a lot of it involves tedious and repetitive tasks that eat up a lot of lawyer's day and can leave things feeling chaotic— not to mention having to juggle between prospects and current clients. Disorganized lawyers can find themselves having to prioritize certain tasks over others and putting tasks like following up with leads on the back burner just to get it all done. Unfortunately, this can leave a lot of prospects frustrated and turning to a competing firm with a better response to their inquiry.
The most successful estate planning lawyers know the importance of staying organized by automating repetitive tasks with a legal client intake software. That way, no opportunities slip through the cracks, and clients aren't left feeling forgotten. Since the client journey starts the minute that a lead reaches out to a law firm, technology like automated appointment scheduling sets the tone from day one.
Technology handles the busy work for lawyers so they can focus on their clients. It's as simple as a client scheduling their own consultation online, which goes directly into a lawyer's personal calendar without having to bother with picking up the phone or engaging in a long-winded email thread trying to find the best time.
Typically, estate planning attorneys are not known for their ongoing communication. Usually, their relationship ends after helping a client draw up their estate plan. Unfortunately, this isn't ideal for most people. The best estate planning attorneys make themselves available to answer any questions that the client has at any point in the client journey— even after the estate planning process is done. Lawyers who value a client-centered approach know that communication shouldn’t stop just because someone is a former client.
The right lawyer keeps both current and former clients engaged and checks in with them whether it’s their birthday or to see whether their estate needs updating.
A lawyer who can offer their clients direct access to them through technology like text messaging for law firms will surely win the hearts of their clients with their attentive and responsive communication style and win more referrals and repeat business.
The right client intake and CRM for lawyers can show lawyers all of their communication with clients in a single location, making it easy to see where each client stands. By relying on tailored and personalized automated follow ups, smart estate lawyers never make their clients feel ignored or undervalued, even if they're busy with other matters.
Clients are looking for someone that takes a genuine interest in their case and their well-being. The right lawyer will put them at ease when asking all the right questions to cover every area of planning their estate. There can be a lot of personal questions involved in the process, so it's important to trust your estate lawyer. When disclosing certain personal details, people want someone that is friendly, attentive, and doesn't make them feel uncomfortable.
Having to answer such personal questions with an attorney that feels unfriendly or aloof can result in missing important information and ultimately affecting your estate plan. If a lawyer can manage to put their clients at ease with a friendly and warm demeanor, they’ll delight and retain them.
Guidance Throughout the Entire Client Journey
The best estate planning attorneys assist their clients every step of the way, ensuring that they stay informed and in the loop by using a CRM for attorneys. People are looking for a lawyer that makes them feel connected every step of the way by meticulously tracking their interaction and answering any questions that come up with a prompt follow up.
Ideally, an attorney should spell each step of the process in their follow ups from who will receive what documents to the guardianship of dependants, to all of your health care decisions. The estate planning process can be incredibly complex, so knowing that you're in good hands with a patient lawyer that takes the time to guide you is incredibly valuable.
The Best Estate Planning Attorneys Rely on Lawmatics to Grow Their Law Firm and Exceed Client Expectations
The most well-respected and highly sought-after estate planning attorneys know the importance of relying on technology to lighten their workload. By using legal software to do the tedious and repetitive tasks for them, they can deliver the best possible client experience and generate repeat business and plenty of referrals. If you're an estate planning lawyer looking to take your law practice to the next level, sign up for a demo to see how Lawmatics can help!