Things to look for in a lawyer
Substantial experience in the right branch of law.
Someone who responds quickly, listens to your needs, and speaks with confidence and authority.
Good online reviews and/or personal or professional recommendations.
Understanding of the difficult issues you and your family are dealing with.
Lawyers, courts, and paperwork might not be the first thing you want to think of right now, while grieving the loss of a loved one. But as you deal with their estate, it could be the case that you find yourself in the weeds of administrative tasks.
It can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had to find a lawyer before and don’t know what you’re looking for, or which questions to ask. Plus, you might not have the emotional energy to do the amount of research you’d normally like to, and that can make you feel like you’re choosing blindly.
Fortunately, estate lawyers are generally well-versed both in their field and in taking the burden off of their clients during what is usually a difficult time.
What makes a good lawyer?
Typically, there are some base-level things to look for in a lawyer. First and foremost, you want to make sure they are experienced and experts in the branch of law you need. When meeting lawyers, always ask how long they’ve been practicing and if they’ve handled cases like yours in the past. In general, the more experience the better.
Another thing to consider is a lawyer’s responsiveness. You want representation who gets back to you within a reasonable amount of time when you have questions or need updates. If it takes too long to get initial responses from a lawyer you’re considering, this might be a sign of issues that could come up later on and they might not be the right fit.
You also want to evaluate their speaking and listening skills. Does this person seem to understand your needs, and can they speak to how to help you with confidence? This is a good indication they’ll represent your loved one’s estate well in court.
Do your research
To look for a lawyer, start with the bar association of the county or state where your loved one lived—a quick internet search should help you find it. In some cases, the county or state might offer consultations to find you a qualified lawyer for free or a small fee. You may also want to check lists of accredited lawyers maintained by other professional law organizations in your area.
As you screen lawyers and have different conversations, be sure to check reviews by people who have worked with them. Just like most other industries, you can find most lawyers on review sites.
Ask for recommendations
Another great way to find a lawyer is to reach out to friends and family. If you know someone who has gone through a similar situation, that’s an easy place to start. If not, ask around.
Our networks these days are vast, and we’re not always aware of everything going on in everyone’s life. If you’re comfortable asking for estate lawyer recommendations on your social media, you might be surprised by who has info that can help you. If you don’t want to cast such a wide net, consider asking around one-on-one. Even if you don’t know anyone personally who has been through this process, someone you know might know someone who has.
If you have an accountant or other financial advisor that you have worked with in the past or have engaged to help with your loved one's affairs, they can also be a good source of recommendations. Professionals often work closely together on things like estates, and they can help point you in the right direction.
Choose someone you’re comfortable with
This is a difficult time for you and your loved ones, and the person guiding you through the bureaucratic parts of this process should be sensitive to that. Make sure whoever you choose to represent your loved one’s estate makes you feel heard. You want to be confident that they have your family’s best interests at heart, and that they’ll do everything they can to respect your loved one’s legacy. When it comes to administering an estate, a good lawyer understands the law, but they also understand the emotional rollercoaster their clients are going through.
Finding a good lawyer doesn’t have to be an arduous process that causes you extra stress. You can lean on the people around you for help and take trusted folks with you while you screen for a good fit. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this person you hire will be representing your loved one’s final instructions, so you want to know they’ll be there every step of the way for you and your family ●
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