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What to Look for When Hiring an Estate Attorney

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and are looking to begin the probate estate administration process, there are three extremely important things you should consider before hiring an estate attorney to guide you through this process.


How much experience does the attorney have when it comes to handling estates?  An attorney may have been in practice for many, many years, but, if only a very small part of his or her practice involves estate administration work, they might not be the right fit for you.  Namely, just as you wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your car, you probably don’t’ want a divorce or personal injury attorney to handle your loved one’s estate.  Ask questions, look at the attorney’s bio and the law firm’s website.  How many estates have they administered and what percentage of their practice is actually dedicated to this area of law?  Would you be working directly with them or are they going to pass this matter off to a secretary or paralegal to handle?  Remember, do your homework.  Hiring an experienced estate attorney can make all the difference in the world in how smoothly and efficiently the estate administration process is handled.


Even a very experienced estate attorney might not be the right fit for you if they are overbearing and difficult to work with.  Like everything else in life, personalities come into play when making these kind of decisions.  Is the attorney friendly?  Is he or she willing to take the time to answer all the questions that you may have?  Are they talking to you in plain English or are they speaking to you about the process in a way and manner that you can’t even understand?  See what others have to say about their experience in dealing with the attorney.  Look at online reviews and don’t be afraid to ask for client referrals.  Again, do your homework and make sure you feel comfortable and at ease with the individual you hire.


Even once you’ve zeroed in on an experienced and reputable attorney, at the end of the day cost is still always going to be an important factor.  As a rule of thumb, I would tell you to avoid those attorneys that are going to charge you on either an hourly basis or based on percentage of the value of the estate basis.  What does this mean?  Well it’s really quite simple, if you hire an attorney on an hourly basis you are quite literally going to have no idea how much the matter is going to cost you until you get to the very end.  Likewise, if you hire someone on a percentage of the value basis, you may very well end up paying far too much for what may be a very simple matter.  Namely, if the estate consists of just a house and one or two bank account, it’s probably going to be a pretty simple estate to administer.  But if the total value of the house and the accounts is $500,000 and the attorney is basing his fee on 5% of the total estate value, you would end up paying $25,000 in legal fees.  A far better arrangement would be to find an attorney who is willing to look at each estate on a case by case basis and to set a flat fee based on the time and amount of work that they believe will be involved.  Remember this though, whatever fee arrangement you ultimately arrive at and decide upon, make sure you get it in writing.

American Wills & Estates is a locally founded, owned and operated law firm that has been assisting clients in Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania with Estate Planning and Probate Estate Administration with competency, compassion and care for over 25 years. We have a number of convenient office locations and also provide home, hospital, evening and weekend appointments upon request.  So, if you find yourself about to enter into the role of an Executor or Administrator and are not sure where to turn for trusted, experienced and, most importantly, affordable legal advice, give us a call today at (412) 381-7370 to schedule your free legal consultation or visit our law firm online. You’ll be glad you did.

Pittsburgh Probate Estate Administration and Estate Planning Lawyers