The prospect of speaking with a probate lawyer to organise the filing of a last testament or will isn’t an appointment that many people look forward to. However, to ensure that your will is carried out according to your wishes, it’s important that you speak with a professional to ensure that everything you think is in order, really in fact is.
There have been various circumstances where individuals think their assets are getting passed down to their children or other predetermined people in their lives. However, when they have passed, wills are contested and other people seem to think they are entitled to assets that the deceased may have not wanted them to have.
When it comes to you speaking with a probate lawyer, here are some key questions to ask to ensure that everything is how it should be.
What is your experience in estate planning?
Depending on your exact needs, the right answer to this will vary. However, you should be speaking with a legal professional that has at least 3 – 5 years experience in probation law and estate planning.
Will you provide me with documentation to review?
It doesn’t matter how many years’ experience your lawyer has in probate work. The professional process is to always allow the client to look through any document that is prepared. Firstly, this is just good practice and client relationship management. Secondly, there may have been items that were misinterpreted, and therefore an error may have been made.
Are you knowledgeable in setting up trusts?
Most probate lawyers will be experienced in placing assets into a living trust. However, it’s always good to ask this upfront. They should advise you on the best way to go about it, including that all assets should be in the name of the owner while they are living.
Do you provide a review process?
In most cases, a probate lawyer can offer a maintenance session or annual review to ensure that everything that was previously agreed upon is still relevant and up to date. For example, there can be changes to tax law that may have an impact on your previous arrangement.
What are your fees?
Most people will remember to ask this question, however, it’s also important to ask whether they have a fixed price after your initial consultation. If they say they charge by the hour, then this can get costly, depending on your specific situation and what post initial consultation needs you require. To ensure that you are both on the same page and there are no surprises down the track, be sure to ask the question about initial and ongoing fees.
Is there anyone I can speak with if you aren’t available?
This is an important one to remember. After all, sometimes matters can’t wait, and if your probate lawyer is on annual leave or sick, then this can cause an issue. Although you will want to speak with you chosen lawyer for most of you concerns or questions, it’s always good to know you may have a back up if required.
What sort of unforseen issues can they help you with?
This question is mainly to see how they work with their clients. Some lawyers only do what is specifically agreed upon. Others realise that unexpected issues can happen that relate to the project at hand. If you find a professional that is willing to go the extra mile if required, then you know that you will always be in safe hands.
Do you specialise in any other types of area of law?
Many lawyers will have a strong past of credentials, experience and expertise. At the end of the day, experience is always a good thing, even if it’s not in probate law specifically. However, for the most part, you will want your lawyer to have a strong focus on probate law in order to ensure they are up to speed on the latest legislation. The more specialised their experience, the more they will be able to help with your specific situation.
Every probate situation will vary. There can be different estate planning and asset needs involved. However, when you are ready with the right questions, including asking about their experience, knowledge, focus, fees and whether they may be willing to go that extra distance in order to help their client, then you can have peace of mind.
Ensure you get the process right from the outset, allowing the best outcome for you and your family.