Estate planning is necessary for everyone.  No one knows what the future holds, so it is extremely important to anticipate and arrange for how your assets will be distributed upon your death. For Pennsylvania residents, the first step is to contact an estate planning attorney in PA.   There is a large number of estate planning attorneys with the expertise to assist you.  So how do you decide which one is right for you?  And how do you know that the attorney is detail oriented enough to make sure that your final estate plan is sufficient for you and contemplates many different

The following is a list of questions to ask a PA estate planning attorney.

  1. How much is your fee? For most individuals and couples, a standard estate plan would include a Will, a durable power of attorney, and an advance healthcare directive. Most attorneys will consult with you and draft these documents for a fixed fee.  However, some people have large estates that require tax planning. Others may have a child with supplemental needs or require some advanced asset protection strategies. An attorney should meet with you and explain what the usual and customary fees are for someone in your circumstance. The attorney can quote you an additional fee for services beyond the usual services before you agree to have that attorney draft those additional documents.
  1. Which is better, a Will or a Trust? There are many different types of trusts:  revocable v. irrevocable, testamentary or inter vivos, supplemental needs trusts, life insurance trusts, etc.  Not everyone needs a trust. In most cases, a Will may be sufficient. Be wary of attorneys who want you to do a Will and a Trust without giving you legitimate reasons for creating a Trust.  Trust documents will come at an extra charge and in some cases, the Trust is unnecessary. 
  1. Is your primary focus estate planning? If you need a standard estate plan, then hiring an attorney that often handles sophisticated estate planning may not be right for you. An attorney who usually handles large or complicated estates, or an attorney that is part of a large law firm, may charge a fee that is higher than what you should expect to pay for the services that you require.  Solo practitioners who have experience with estate planning matters may be right for you and they may charge a fee that is very reasonable for the services.
  1. How many years of experience do you have with estate planning matters?   Estate planning attorneys who have practiced for many years have developed standard documents that can be changed for a client’s particular needs.  You should find an attorney who has had experience with many different clients and has already encountered many situations.  These experiences help the attorney establish terms within the document that can prove useful to you and survive legal scrutiny or challenges.
  1. Why should I hire you when I can find a Will on the internet or on Legalzoom?  An attorney should explain that his value is making sure that you understand all of your legal options so that you can decide which is best for you.  An attorney can also help you spot issues that are unique to your needs and address them in the documents.  People who try to play the role of attorney and create their own documents are at risk for having invalid documents, insufficient documents, ambiguous documents, or documents that create problems and do not solve them. Estate planning, even simple or standard estate plans, require discussion, thought and an understanding of legal and practical consequences to the decisions you make. Those decisions should be made with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for finding an attorney who you are comfortable working with.  The attorney should take interest in your estate plan because the attorney should take his or her time in helping you create an estate plan that makes sense for you and you only.  A good estate planning attorney will sit down with you and your spouse and talk to you about your future, your goals and your objectives.  He or she will give you options and suggestions.  These options and suggestions are what truly makes the attorney worth it.