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Old 02-08-2020, 12:31 PM
Roderick Femm's Avatar
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How would you find an estate attorney?


I don't mean so much, how would you choose the best among several attorneys that you are evaluating. I mean, how would you get started finding one or more to choose from?

There seems to be any number of attorney-evaluating websites, from Yelp on up, but I don't put much faith in either customer reviews* nor in "professional" organizations where attorneys probably pay to join. If you know of reputable objective evaluation sites, I would be interested.

I asked a friend for a recommendation but her lawyer is 60 miles away and I prefer someone relatively nearby (because management of the estate would be hands-on and collaborative with my husband). Also, when I tried them anyway they have been very slow to respond, which drives me nuts. Just setting up a phone call seems like a major event. I have had this before with attorneys at a distance (viz. my saga of trying to sell a house in another state).

I expect to pay the going rate, within limits price is not going to be an issue.

If you have started from scratch to find an estate attorney, or anything along those lines, please share what you have learned.

*My requirements, while well within the competence of any estate lawyer, are probably not so common in estates as small as mine. Also I don't care so much if they don't validate my parking.
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Old 02-08-2020, 12:41 PM
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I'm the primary caretaker for my 86-year-old father, who lives in a "memory care" facility. I have a lawyer who specializes in elder law and trusts and estates.

You can see some of the difficulties I've had finding lawyers to handle things in the thread at the link below:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=881503

In my opinion, the only way to find a competent, trustworthy lawyer is through a recommendation from someone you know and trust who has used that lawyer with good results. I would deal with a 60-mile trip to see your lawyer (or paying the lawyer for travel time to come to you) before I went to a lawyer who was not recommended to me in this way.

Based mostly on my experiences with the lawyers performing services for my father, but also on my twenty years of experienced working in IT in mega-law firms (not the kind of firms that do T&E work, the giant corporate firms like Simpson Thacher or Skadden Arps), I don't have a very high opinion of either the competency or the ethics of the legal profession.

Be very careful. As I said, you really need a recommendation from someone you trust.
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Old 02-08-2020, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Saintly Loser View Post
In my opinion, the only way to find a competent, trustworthy lawyer is through a recommendation from someone you know and trust who has used that lawyer with good results.
This reminds me of something about doctors: some doctors have a very good bedside manner to patients and their families--but are not very competent medically while other doctors are somewhat lacking in social skills but medically produce very good results.

The first group may have better recommendations than the second.

So seriously you need to use multiple methods.

You should also consider simplifying the issues now. For example you plan to will $5,000 to the local humane society and your grandmother's heirloom necklace to your niece. Instead do that now. Financial accounts can be merged. Physical assets can be sold and converted to cash...

If you have a simple enough estate you can use software such as Willmaker to make a will.

Last edited by PastTense; 02-08-2020 at 02:19 PM.
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Old 02-08-2020, 02:18 PM
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Ask around. That’s often the best way.
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
This reminds me of something about doctors: some doctors have a very good bedside manner to patients and their families--but are not very competent medically while other doctors are somewhat lacking in social skills but medically produce very good results.

The first group may have better recommendations than the second.

So seriously you need to use multiple methods.

(snip)

If you have a simple enough estate you can use software such as Willmaker to make a will.
These are good points. I know my friend's attorney acted for her parents as well as for her, so that's a fairly decent record. I don't really have anyone else I can ask locally. Do you know of any other methods?

I need far more than a will. I need to set up a trust that will be administered, probably by the attorney, after I'm dead, as my husband is not competent (and has no interest in learning) to make sure the bills get paid and so on. If he pre-deceases me it's a cakewalk and a living trust would be fine. But if I go first, there are some additional provisions in addition to administering the assets that I want to make sure of.
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:07 PM
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I needed to find one for my father who also dealt in eldercare issues. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who was a social worker and who recommended one who was excellent. If you were hypothetically asking about a similar situation, I would recommend calling a nursing or assisted living facility and asking to speak to an on-staff SW or the administrator.

In your case, try to think of another profession that deals with those attorneys and call around. Obviously, probate court staff and county clerks know this stuff but probably can't give out that kind of information, but they may be able to steer you to someone who can.
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:43 PM
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Do you have any investments with a fund manager, like at Merrill Lynch? They tend to work closely with estate attorneys?

Or, check the stateís Supreme Court website for a lawyer referral service. If you arenít dealing with a huge estate, and want more personalized service, then you might have a better experience with an attorney who is getting those sorts of recommendations, since they are hustling for clients, and you wonít be just another file.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Ask around. Thatís often the best way.
This is what we did. Went to the local bank asked them who did trusts in this county.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
These are good points. I know my friend's attorney acted for her parents as well as for her, so that's a fairly decent record. I don't really have anyone else I can ask locally. Do you know of any other methods?

I need far more than a will. I need to set up a trust that will be administered, probably by the attorney, after I'm dead, as my husband is not competent (and has no interest in learning) to make sure the bills get paid and so on. If he pre-deceases me it's a cakewalk and a living trust would be fine. But if I go first, there are some additional provisions in addition to administering the assets that I want to make sure of.
Yes, you need a T&E (trusts and estates) lawyer. It's a whole field unto itself.

If your friend was happy with her lawyer, I wouldn't let the 60 miles be a huge obstacle.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:53 PM
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I have a will and a trust - in California anyone with more than two nickels to rub together has a trust. We asked around, and interviewed the attorney. The most important factor for us was whether he asked us what we wanted versus telling us what we wanted.
We just redid it with another attorney who was closer. With any luck you'll need to revise it a few times so you will get a chance to change.
When we started the trust, and our kids were smaller, we had our financial services company as money manager, but now they are older we've put in a daughter who is very good with money.
Same way we chose a financial planner - someone who listens.

Last edited by Voyager; 02-08-2020 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 02-10-2020, 05:19 PM
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You can search by location and areas of practice. Individual attorneys are rated.

https://www.martindale.com/find-attorneys/
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:55 PM
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Use the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys to find a lawyer. It's a feature on their website. You can also check to see if the attorney you're considering has written articles for any elder law publications or other publications in the legal field.
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