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Wills, Trusts, Probate & Guardianships

Choosing An Attorney

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How to Select an Estate Planning, Probate or Guardianship Attorney
Even if you have a simple planning matter, it is advisable to seek an attorney who is experienced in this area of practice. An experienced estate planning, probate or guardianship attorney will have an in depth knowledge of the law and significant hands on skills. This will enable the attorney to recognize important issues that need to be addressed and handle your matter in a proactive, responsible and efficient manner. In addition to hiring an experienced attorney, you should also consider the following:

Look for an Attorney Who Limits His/Her Practice to The Areas in Which You Need Assistance
Consider if you were planning to undergo knee surgery. Would you want a general practitioner or an urologist to operate on your knee? The practice of estate planning, probate and guardianship law is very similar; it is a very sophisticated area of practice and a general practice attorney may not be the right fit for you. Choosing an attorney who has dedicated his or her practice to the area(s) in which you are seeking assistance provides numerous benefits. The attorney most likely prepares many wills, trusts and estate plans each year and has likely settled numerous estates and administered several guardianships. This will enable the attorney to recognize important issues, handle them in a skilled manner and work quickly and efficiently.

Do Not Let The Offer of a Free Consultation Blind You
Many attorneys offer a free consultation. Selecting an attorney based on the fact that he or she offers a free consultation can be problematic. It is more important that you look at the attorney's ability to handle your matter, the fee that will be charged and whether you feel comfortable working with the attorney. Most attorneys who are skilled in this area of practice, including myself, charge a nominal fee for an office consultation.

Consider How the Attorney Charges
Attorneys typically offer a range of services at hourly rates or a fixed fee. If the attorney offers a fixed fee, make sure that you know in advance what items will be included in the fee. Attorneys often provide an "engagement letter", which will outline the fee and the services provided.

In some cases, a portion of the fee will be fixed with complementary services offered at an hourly rate. For example, an attorney may charge a fixed fee to prepare basic estate planning documents but charge an hourly rate to transfer assets to the living trust. The reason for this may be that the attorney can control the time spent preparing the estate planning documents, but transferring the assets to the living trust may consume a significant amount of additional time. In the probate context, an attorney may charge a fixed fee for Summary Administration and an hourly rate for Formal Administration. The reason for this may be that a Summary Administration is less complicated than a Formal Administration and the attorney can easily anticipate the time that it will take to perform the Summary Administration.

How Much Should You Pay For an Estate Plan, Probate or Guardianship?
While cost should certainly be an important factor in selecting your estate planning, probate or guardianship attorney, it should not be the only factor that you consider. There are so many options available to plan an estate today; some people create their estate plan on the Internet, others choose a general practice attorney who uses a standard format for all of their clients to create a simple will and others choose to work with an attorney who tailors the documents to their clients' specific needs. While it may cost slightly more to have a document tailored to your specific needs, you will be assured of having an estate plan that works in your particular situation. Frequently, as a probate attorney, I am asked to clean up problems that arise after death. These problems are often the result of a decedent creating his or her estate plan using the Internet, poor draftsmanship by the drafting attorney or failure to completely fund the living trust. Many of the costs incurred in fixing the problems could have been avoided by the decedent hiring a competent estate planning attorney to review the entire matter and plan appropriately. Similarly, while it may cost slightly more to engage an experienced probate or guardianship attorney, you can avoid many of the problems that result from having an inexperienced attorney.

Personality Issues
It is always best to locate an attorney who you feel comfortable with. In this area of practice, clients often disclose information that is very personal and sometimes unpleasant. You should be certain that you select an attorney with whom you feel comfortable disclosing this type of information. In addition, since estate planning, probate and guardianship law is so complicated, you may want to select an attorney who will take the time to explain each issue in detail and be certain that you understand the choices that you make.

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Office Location

7685 S.W. 104th Street, Suite 200
Miami, Florida 33156
Phone: 305-662-9997
Fax: 305-669-8198

4000 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Suite 470
Coral Gables, Florida 33146
Phone: 305-662-9997
Fax: 305-669-8198