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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney

POSTED ON: October 12, 2011

Hiring an attorney is not something most people do very often, and when they do, it is usually for an important reason such as planning their estate. You know that protecting your assets and ensuring your family has a solid road map for the future is crucially important, but how can you be sure you are getting the service you need? Deciding where to turn can be a daunting task for some people, so here are a few of the biggest mistakes to avoid in your search for a good estate planning attorney in Massachusetts.

MISTAKE #1– Going It Alone With “Cheap” Online Options
If you could get your hands on a physician’s prescription pad, would that make you a doctor? Of course not. It’s the doctor’s professional training, his experience, his diagnostic ability, his knowledge of various remedies and courses of action that are so valuable.

The same principles apply to those legal forms you can download online. Just because you have the form doesn’t mean you know what to do, when to do it, or if you should be doing it at all. Mistakes are common with these factory forms and usually it is your loved ones who pay the price down the road.

As they say, you get what you pay for, and a little more investment now will pay off huge when your family needs to depend on the plans you have put in place.

MISTAKE #2—Falling for high hourly rates for simple services.
Some lawyers will lure you in with “cheap” basic services — and then proceed to rack up hourly fees as they execute planning services that really should have been covered by a single “flat” fee — a fee that encompasses everything the lawyer will do with no surprises.

Hourly billing is an outdated model that allows attorneys to rack up expensive fees for relatively simple procedures by focusing on the time it takes them to do something rather than the quality of the product you receive.

A flat fee model allows the attorney to focus on creating the best possible work product for the client without constantly checking the clock. Also, it allows clients to have a full understanding of their costs before work begins. In the end, a flat fee saves you money and encourages more efficient work from your attorney.

MISTAKE #3– Not setting up a plan for regular communication.
As we all know, life means change. People get married, get divorced, have kids, pass away. Friends, neighbors and life circumstances all change as we age. If your lawyer doesn’t have a plan in place for regularly communicating with and updating clients, your estate plan could very well become obsolete.

Because estate plans are often done as a single transaction between lawyer and client, the constant changes in the law and your life are sometimes not taken into account. Your estate plan needs to be updated regularly and affordably and you should be hearing from your lawyer about new and important information you need to make smart decisions for your family’s well-being.

Your estate planning attorney should be someone who makes an effort to keep in touch with you for life, so that you can be assured you will never be in the dark.

MISTAKE #4– Choosing a lawyer who only focuses on your financial assets.
Planning to protect your financial assets is only part of what estate planning is all about. For most people, money is actually secondary to protecting their loved ones and ensuring an orderly transition of their affairs when they pass.

You want a lawyer who has considered all of these issues and helps you leave more than just physical possessions to your loved ones. Money is fleeting, but your values and character should live on indefinitely.

MISTAKE #5—Not considering the total costs of your estate plan.
Most people are surprised to learn that the majority of the cost of an estate plan is not in the upfront costs of creating an estate plan but rather in the estate administration costs – after you pass away.

Many estate planners fail to explain these hidden costs and the ways you can avoid them. You want an estate planner who helps you control all of the costs of estate planning, not just the first step. A comprehensive estate plan can save your family from paying twice to protect your assets.

MISTAKE #6– Not choosing a lawyer who focuses on estate planning.
Estate planning shouldn’t be an afterthought for you or your lawyer. Your family deserves an estate plan created by an attorney who focuses their practice in this area. The consequences of making a bad decision in your estate plan likely won’t be felt until you are gone or unable to manage your affairs. By then, it will be too late to remedy estate planning mistakes. You deserve someone who will be a trusted advisor in your life, today and into the future.

Call the Heritage Law Center today for a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.