QUESTIONS. to ask your ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

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1 QUESTIONS to ask your ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY

2 5 Questions you will regret not asking your prospective Estate Planning Attorney Deciding on the right Estate Planning attorney can be daunting. What should you be looking for? What should you be asking? Knowing not only the questions to ask at the onset but the reasons why these questions should be asked is priceless when considering the impact Estate Planning documents done properly will have. Because we have represented many North Carolina clients we know that sometimes people simply do not know how to select a qualified Estate Planning attorney. While in theory any licensed attorney can assist you in setting up a living trust or will or drafting a power of attorney, Estate Planning is a highly technical area of law that requires multi-disciplinary knowledge of a range of legal practice areas, including probate, wills and trust, tax law, wealth management, health care law, banking law, ERISA, public benefit programs and other specialized areas of legal knowledge. It is important that you ask your questions before you retain your Estate Planning attorney. Finding out too late that your Charlotte Estate Planning attorney did not have the education, experience and passion for Estate Planning that he or she should have is like

3 QUESTION #1 What is your experience in the area of Estate Planning? Because Estate Planning can be extremely complex, involves a broad scope of legal issues and is dictated often times by complicated statutes, you should look for an Estate Planning lawyer who focuses the bulk if not the majority of his or her practice on Estate Planning. Estate Planning could involve various areas such as planning for longterm care, retirement planning, tax avoidance (not to be confused with tax evasion which is illegal!), asset protection for children, protection of inheritance for special needs beneficiaries and creditor protection, to mention a few. SOME QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK: 1. How long have you been in practice? 2. How long have you focused on Estate Planning? 3. What other areas of law does your Firm focus on?

4 My 14 years in practice have all focused on Estate Planning and Probate. The Firm is exclusively dedicated to assisting clients in protecting their legacy and assets and preparing for future decisions regarding all areas of Estate Planning. Because Estate Planning covers a broad range of issues, you should also confirm you are considering an Estate Planning attorney who has the range of knowledge to address your specific needs. There are many issues that can be addressed through effective Estate Planning so you should inquire about your attorney s experience with Revocable Living Trusts, Power of Attorneys, Last Will and Testaments, Advance Medical Directives, Asset Protection, Tax Planning, Business Succession and other areas of Estate Planning that are relevant to your specific situation. Ask yourself this OH, BY THE WAY, IF YOU ARE NOT EVEN SURE WHAT A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT IS YOU CAN WATCH OUR SHORT VIDEO! AND NOT CERTAIN WHAT A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST IS? YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT IT ON OUR WEBSITE! WHAT ON EARTH ARE ADVANCED DIRECTIVES? WATCH OUR SHORT VIDEO!

5 QUESTION #2 Why do I need an Attorney to help me with my Estate Plan? By doing it yourself or relying on a computer software program, you increase the risk of your plan failing. Why? Because an experienced Estate Planning attorney knows the right questions to ask you and most importantly hears your responses to formulate follow up questions. These questions are invaluable and cannot be replaced by any selfhelp do-it-yourself method. No computer software program will ever replace a two way conversation between you and an experienced Estate Planning attorney. You don t get that with a computer software program or an on line do it yourself website. We frequently hear from those who have attempted to rely on computer software programs, self-help legal publications and the internet who need to rectify a mess created by failing to properly fund a trust, improperly execute a will or other mistakes that might have been prevented by sound Estate Planning legal advice. Many times people use these short-cuts to save money but end up paying far more to repair the damage than it would have cost to do things right the first time. That s if they are fortunate to realize there is an issue. More often than not, these drafting issues are realized at death or a time when they are no longer legally competent to alter the documents to correct them. Ask yourself this if you needed stitches would you take a needle and thread and stitch yourself up or would

6 QUESTION #3 What happens after we sign all the documents? Why is this important to know from the beginning? Let me give you an example If your attorney drafts a Last Will and Testament for you, it should not end there. It is so important to also confirm with your financial institutions that the ownership of your assets and the beneficiary designations on your assets all conform to your wishes expressed in your Will. If you do not take this necessary and important step, your plan that you set out in your Will, may fail. Here is another example If your attorney drafts a Revocable Living Trust, and your goal of having this trust created is to avoid Probate, you will need to Fund your Trust with some of your assets. If you don t have an attorney that will guide you through this after you sign then you run the risk as well that your plan may fail. AND BY THE WAY, IF YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH WHAT FUNDING IS, YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT IT ON OUR WEBSITE!

7 I do not believe in sign it and forget it. You should have a long term relationship with your Estate Planning attorney because nothing stays the same. Your life changes, your assets change, your family grows and your needs and goals may also change over time. While we prepare a comprehensive estate plan for our clients, we know that people need periodic reviews of their estate plan and Estate Planning documents as they confront major life changes, such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, retirement and other significant life events. While competence and knowledge are very important, you also need a North Carolina Estate Planning lawyer with whom you feel comfortable. When people contact us about setting up an estate plan, we offer a free initial 15 minute phone consultation. We do this for two reasons. One, so that we can get a feel for your needs and two, so that you can evaluate if we are a good fit for your long-term Estate Planning needs and goals.

8 QUESTION #4 What is your Professional Reputation in Charlotte? Admittedly, it is a little crazy to ask this of the attorney directly. Honestly, who would ever admit they earned a bad reputation! Instead, maybe this is a question you ask of Google before even calling! Where better to find complaints as well as positive comments on anything. You interpret what you find accordingly. Consistent bad client experiences may be something to make note of. Important as well is speaking with those who deal with attorneys in this area of law professionally, such as your accountant, business manager, real estate agent and banker. We all do this already, don t we? We ask our friends and family for doctor referrals and recommendations all the time! People will not recommend if they had a bad experience. This is no different when it comes to choosing an Estate Planning attorney. Our Estate Planning law firm has enjoyed the opportunity to work on behalf of many clients with a wide spectrum of Estate Planning issues so it is easy to learn about us from those we have helped. You can simply view our testimonials here

9 QUESTION #5 Do you customize your documents for each client? While preparation of effective documents is a vital component of Estate Planning, you should look for an attorney that provides clear insightful advice rather than simply drafting legal documents at your direction. The best Estate Planning attorneys will provide options and alternative strategies while explaining the benefits and disadvantage of various approaches. An Estate Planning attorney should be an educator who explains the information you need in order to make informed decision in a clear and straightforward way. Effective Estate Planning also often times involves cooperation with your CPA and financial advisor to ensure that your assets are protected, taxes minimized and wealth preserved and passed to your loved ones according to your wishes. We allot approximately 90 minutes for your initial consultation with us. During this time we discuss in detail the pros and cons of each of your options and how these options fit in with your goals. Regardless of what my thoughts are on which plan I think meets your goals, the final choice is always yours. It is your plan and you need to know how it works and be comfortable with it and confident in it.

10 WHY COST SHOULD NOT BE THE FIRST QUESTION ASKED No doubt, there are many other considerations such as cost. But our experience trying to fix past mistakes and probating estates, has shown that a penny saved today (for whatever reason) may cost you and your family a fortune later. We understand that every client we see has unique needs, goals and concerns so we listen to you to customize the best comprehensive solution for your individual situation. COST DOES NOT REFLECT VALUE! UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF PROPERLY DRAFTED ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS BEING PREPARED BY AN EXPERIENCED QUALIFIED ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY IS PRICELESS! If you have Estate Planning questions in Charlotte or elsewhere in North Carolina we invite you to call us at (704) or send us an to learn how we can help. DISCLAIMER: This Report is intended to offer general information only and does not create a client attorney relationship with Sabrina Winters, Attorney at Law, PLLC. The Report is based on North Carolina law at the time of printing. If you reside outside of North Carolina or own assets outside of North Carolina, the laws affecting you may differ. Also, keep in mind that laws periodically change and you should consult the most current laws before be necessary for you to implement every planning recommendation made in the Report in order for your estate plan to work properly. You should consult

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