HOW TO PICK A PROBATE LAWYER
If you’ve recently lost a loved one and find yourself tasked with being the Executor or Administrator the estate, you probably have a lot of questions. There are many, many attorneys out there, but who can you trust and how do you find someone that you feel comfortable working with. A good starting point is to conduct an online search for and “Estate Attorney” or “Probate Attorney” in the state and county where your loved one live. That’s probably not going to narrow things down a whole lot, but at least you’ll be able to start to put together a list of some potential choices.
After you’ve assembled a list of possible estate lawyers in the area, you’ll want to narrow down your choices by considering some of their respective attributes.
• Biographical information, including undergrad, law school, years practicing. Do they appear to have expertise in the area of probate, trusts and estates, or estate planning? Nothing beats experience and it’s extremely important that the lawyer you choose is familiar with the laws of the local county where the Decedent resided.
• Online search results. Search online for the lawyer and his or her law firm. What do any resulting articles, FAQ's, or information written by the attorney indicate about that lawyer’s legal experience or perspectives? Also, take a look at reviews by former clients on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook and others.
• References. Ask to talk to clients or former clients who can comment on the lawyer's skills and trustworthiness. If the lawyer tells you he doesn’t want you to speak with any of his former clients, that’s probably not a very good sign.
• State Bar association. Search your state’s bar association's website to find out if the lawyer is in good standing. Make sure the attorney you choose hasn’t been disbarred or sanctioned for any kind or inappropriate actions.
• Additional certifications. Is the lawyer certified as a specialist in your state? Such certifications indicate that an attorney has significant experience focusing on these areas of the law. Not every state certifies specialists in probate matters. If not, look to see if the lawyer specializes in trusts and estates or estate planning.
• Membership in local, state, or national associations. Does the attorney maintain professional memberships—like local probate attorney bars or related organizations?
• Payment. Ask for a copy of the retainer agreement and have the attorney explain it to you. You may end up paying a lot of money to the lawyer you hire, so make sure you understand how payment works before you commit to the relationship. If the attorney is unwilling to provide you with a written fee agreement spelling out the terms of your arrangement, he or she is probably not a very wise choice.
• Your special needs. Does the attorney you hire need to have special skills to address your unique circumstances? For example, will you need the lawyer to speak a language other than English, or will the lawyer need to be licensed to practice in more than one state?
At the end of the day, meet with at least a few of your potential choices and find the person who makes you feel comfortable and confident that the matter will be handled in a timely and competent manner.
American Wills & Estates is a locally founded, owned and operated Pittsburgh law firm with a practice limited to Probate Estate Administration, Estate Planning and Real Estate law.
Whether you need our legal services to assist you in the probate estate administration of a loved one’s estate or to help you create and craft an estate plan that best protects and serves your family’s specific, individual needs, you’ll be dealing with trusted and experienced attorneys who have been assisting clients throughout Western Pennsylvania with competency, compassion and care for over 25 years.
Our expertise in Probate Estate Administration and Estate Planning covers everything from the preparation of simple Last Will and Testaments, Durable Power of Attorneys and Living Wills, to the start to finish probate administration of small, medium and large estates. We handle the preparation and filing of all estate and inheritance related tax returns and provide a full range of Will, Trust and/or Orphans’ Court litigation services.