Seek out the right professionals. What to look for in an estate planning lawyer.
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Estate Planning & Financial Planning: Seeking Expert Advice

This month’s Legal Brief discusses how to find expert advice in estate planning and financial planning. We focus on how to find the right professionals to manage your assets and plan for your future.

At times, financial matters are confusing. Who you go to for help with your taxes may not be the right person to manage day-to-day bookkeeping for your small business. Similarly, a banker helps you secure a loan or line of credit and is not who you turn to for stock market investments. Legal matters are equally broad. Knowing the right attorney to turn to when you are injured in a car wreck is different from who to turn to for a divorce or when planning your will and trust.

Why does expertise matter?

Some financial firms and planners may indicate and even have some knowledge of estate planning. Yet, you should exercise caution when seeking estate planning advice from a financial planner. There are ways your financial advisor can help with estate planning. Be wary if they contradict an attorney or give legal advice. Even paralegals, legal secretaries, and notaries are warned against “unauthorized practice of law.” Very rarely is a financial planner also an attorney specializing in estate planning. Financial planners who are not attorneys should not give legal advice. If your financial planner suggests you create a will or trust they should then refer you to a capable attorney.

Similarly, attorneys understand certain aspects of your financial situation so they create the right estate plan for you. Again, you should exercise caution if your attorney tells you where to invest your money or gives other financial advice. A good estate plan lawyer understands your financial situation enough to help you determine which pieces you need as part of your estate plan. Would a will be sufficient? Do you need a revocable living trust? What about heritage trusts? How can you protect your assets? When your attorney and financial advisor work together you have the best chance to ensure your estate and financial planning meet your specific needs.

What to look for in a financial planner:

Financial planning is a broad category of services. Here are some tips for securing a good financial planner.

  • Knowledgeable: Has demonstrated mastery of their financial planning skillset (over and above asset management) through recognized industry education and credentials. Series 66 licensed. Industry approved certifications confirming advanced expertise in financial planning focus areas (CFP, ChFC, CLU, CRPC, Etc.). Keeps up with corresponding license/certification continuing education annually to maintain a competent skillset. Pays attention to all the financial news and shares with you what you need to know.
  • Client Focused: Meets with you regularly to assess your goals and current financial health. Recommends the best ways to invest and grow your assets. Is a “fiduciary”; accepting the responsibility to legally recommend and/or manage the client’s money/property solely for their benefit, not the advisor. Acts as a consultant, not a salesperson. Listens, understands, and recommends clear solutions, based on CLIENT objectives as the exclusive priority.
  • Team Player: Knows the boundaries of their expertise and refers you to the right professionals when necessary. Works directly and collaboratively with your estate attorney and tax professional/CPA without additional fees.

Ultimately, is the financial planner you’re considering easy to understand and talk to? As a professional do they demonstrate care for you, the client, personally? Is their goal seeking your financial success as if it’s their own? You want someone in your corner working with you as a partner not looking out only for themselves and their interests.

What to look for in an estate planning attorney:

So how do you find the right estate planning lawyer? Estate planning is a specific area of the law not all attorneys know well. When seeking out solid, expert legal advice about estate planning there are a few important considerations.

  • Expertise: What is the lawyer or firm’s main legal practice area(s)? What type of work do they do? How much of their cases focus on estate planning? Ensure you turn to someone who really knows all the laws around estate planning, so your documents meet your needs.
  • Honesty: Beware the lawyer that tells you everything you want to hear. A good attorney will listen and hear you and what you would like or what you need, and then honestly tell you how the law works and what can be done in your situation. Even if you don’t like what the lawyer says you come seeking their expertise and should get a valid assessment of your situation and what your options are.
  • Costs: You can find a cheap online service that allows you to create estate planning documents. However, when you seek out a knowledgeable attorney you know your documents meet your specific needs and the legal requirements in your state and your situation.
  • Personality: Do you work well with the attorney? Are they straightforward, explaining how the law works in plain language? Your estate plan is not necessarily one and done. You may need to clarify something after your plan is initially created. You may need help funding a trust properly. You may have to make changes and updates later. Ensure you are a good fit and work well with the lawyer you choose.

At Stone Law we know estate planning. Our attorneys stay up to date with the current laws in Colorado. We collaborate with our clients to tailor your documents (will, trust, powers of attorney) to your specific situation and needs. As a firm we partner with financial professionals to ensure your assets are managed wisely both now and as you wish after your passing. If you need to create or update your estate plan reach out today for expert legal advice. Our offices in Loveland and Lakewood allow us to serve clients along the front range. Reach out today and start your journey toward peace of mind.

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