So, You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

by Eric M. Schorr

Finding a qualified estate planner can be difficult. Knowing where to start your search and what to ask for is your first step.

Ask your Financial Advisor.

Many financial advisors and planners view estate planning as an integral part of meeting their clients’ overall financial goals.  Experienced financial advisors frequently have multiple “go-to” estate planning attorneys who they can reach out to depending on each client’s individual needs. If your financial advisor has not broached this subject yet, then you should bring it up.  Also, ask your advisor who he or she uses for his own personal estate plan. If your advisor trusts him with his own money, then, well..

Ask your Accountant.

Estate planning lawyers frequently seek the advice of accountants for help with income tax issues related to estates and trusts and business planning.  So, chances are your accountant can recommend one or more qualified estate planning attorneys in your area. Likewise, accountants often seek out estate planning lawyers for their clients since accountants have access to their clients’ financial information and recognize the extent to which an estate plan is needed.  Again, ask your accountant who did his or her own personal estate plan.

Ask your Lawyer.

If you’ve worked with a lawyer in setting up your business, buying your home, reviewing a contract, or, god forbid, litigation, he or she will most likely know a qualified estate planning attorney or two. And lawyers are always happy to refer their clients to other lawyers who don’t practice in their area of expertise because these referrals promote referrals back the other way. Ask your lawyer who did his or her own estate plan since most non-estate planning lawyers understand that estate planning is a very specialized practice and they won’t even attempt to create their own estate plans.

Check the Louisiana State Bar Association web site (lsba.org).

The Louisiana State Bar Association keeps a list of lawyers who are Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning and Estate Administration. These lawyers have passed a rigorous test and have demonstrated expertise in estate planning. Furthermore, these Specialists have more stringent continuing education requirements then general practitioners, so they are more likely to be up to speed on the latest laws and estate planning techniques. Although there are roughly 8,000 practicing lawyers in Louisiana, only about 110 are recognized Specialists in estate planning. Make sure your estate planner is Certified by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization.

Check Local and National Estate Planning and Elder Law Associations.

There are several local and national associations and academies dedicated to helping you with estate planning, elder law issues, and special-needs planning. These associations’ websites are a valuable tool if you’re looking for a qualified attorney in your area. Here are just a few:

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