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Seven Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Estate Planning Expert

Delwin Graham & Eric Brown - Aug 20, 2020
Finding the right estate planning expert doesn’t have to be challenging, though. Armed with the right questions, finding someone suitable doesn’t have to take too long.

Estate planning can be hard to think about. It forces people to consider the financial matters that will occur while they’re living and after they die. But finding the right estate planning expert is crucial to make sure assets are appropriately managed and that family members will receive their inheritances quickly.

Not all estate plans are designed equally. A poorly executed plan can lead to unfulfilled objectives, tense relationships, and wasted time.

Finding the right estate planning expert doesn’t have to be challenging, though. Armed with the right questions, finding someone suitable doesn’t have to take too long.

Not sure where to start? We’re here to help. Here are seven questions to ask before choosing an estate planning expert.

1.  What’s Your Standard Estate Plan?

This is a trick question. An estate planning expert shouldn’t have a standard estate plan, and each one should be unique. Every estate plan should be created based on the needs and requirements of each client.

If the estate planner responds by saying that most people require specific core documents like a will, a power of attorney, and a healthcare proxy, that’s fine. But he or she should also tell you that many clients require other documents too.

2.  What Type of Clients Do You Usually Serve?

When it comes to estate planning services, ask your planner what type of clients they usually work with. You want to work with someone who has many previous clients with estates and problems like your own.

The size of your estate isn’t all that matters here. If you own a family business or various real-estate holdings, look for a planner who has experience dealing with these issues regularly.

3.  How Would You Work with My Other Advisors?

Seek an estate planning expert who is happy to work with your other advisors. These can include accountants, investment managers, and attorneys.

Estate plans are often intricately linked with other areas of wealth management. Therefore, multi disciplinary coordination and communication usually provide the best results. A good estate planning expert understands that they aren’t experts on everything and appreciates the extra help and expertise from others.

4.  Can You Provide References?

The best estate planners will have plenty of satisfied clients willing to vouch for them. If a planner is happy to provide references and reviews from current and past clients, this shows strong relationships and a history of successful results.

5.  What Do You Do for Later-Life Planning?

Estate planning isn’t just about preparing for what happens after your death. It should also include organizing for longevity and the possibility of significant health issues.

The estate planner should answer this question regarding setting up a power of attorney for health care. This is a document that allows an individual of your choosing to make health decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself, say, due to dementia or another illness. The estate planning expert goes beyond this and mentions plans and strategies for protecting assets from elder financial abuse and ID theft too.

After all, as life expectancy increases, so does the likelihood of physical and mental health problems. Estate planning experts should help clients financially prepare for the possibility of disability or dementia by organizing powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and living wills.

6.  Do You Use Encrypted Email?

The emails your estate planning expert sends you can contain sensitive information. That makes encryption crucial for your security and privacy.

That’s not the only reason you should ask if your estate planner uses encrypted email. If your estate planning expert uses email encryption, this indicates that they are careful by nature. It also shows that they are up to date with modern technology and trends.

You can also ask your estate planner if they use document generation software. This significantly reduces the time it takes to produce estate planning documents and lessens the odds of making some mistakes.

An estate planning advisor who doesn’t use document generation software may spend too much time drafting documents. If they bill by the hour, that means you could be paying more than necessary. If the planner has another approach that they feel is efficient, they should feel comfortable explaining it.

7.  Can You Provide a Fee Estimate?

While choosing an estate planning expert based on fees isn’t wise, it does matter. Choose a planner who is open and honest about their estate planning fees. Some planners offer fixed fees, while others charge hourly.

But approach small flat costs with haste. Low flat fees indicate a template that would be unable to address your unique situation. But if you like the sound of two planners with similar expertise equally, go for the option with lower costs.

A reliable estate planning expert will say that they can’t answer the question until they learn more about you. This can include your net worth, family situation, your health, and your long-term goals. An estate planner who offers you a quote before they collect at least the basic information about you could be giving every client a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Are You Ready to Hire an Estate Planning Expert?

When hiring an estate planning expert, you also need to ask yourself a question: ‘How comfortable will I feel working with this person?’

If you don’t feel comfortable working with someone, then no amount of experience or references will matter. Remember, your estate planning expert is one of the most important professionals you’ll hire. Make sure it’s the right person.

If you’re seeking a wealth management advisor, here at Graham Wealth Partners we can help. Learn more about our mission and our difference here.