Finding an Estate Attorney

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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Br69102
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:21 am

Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Br69102 »

Hi All,

I've recently been asked to help a friend with their investments. They have been using a financial advisor (Morgan Stanley) for some time and the advisor is now asking them to purchase last to die insurance to cover the estate tax at death. They have primarily liquid assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds) so it seems unclear to me why they should buy the insurance. However, I'm no expert and believe they should find an Estate attorney to provide options to eliminate the need for insurance by advising on other methods to reduce their estate below the lifetime gift tax exemption.

My question ... How does one find a qualified estate attorney ... a quick google search in our area (Seattle) shows hundreds. Any recommendations or advice would really be appreciated.

Thanks!
Spencer
Posts: 149
Joined: Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:20 am

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Spencer »

Regardless of the insurance recommendation, if your friend has a taxable estate (over ~$23m), they should absolutely have an experienced estate attorney that deals with taxable estate planning (as opposed to just a will & trust type attorney).

As far as finding a few to interview, the standard answer is to look in the ACTEC directory. Good place to start but also ask for referrals from other professionals (CPA, etc). I'd interview at least 3 to make sure you find a good fit as this will be a long-term relationship.

Regarding the insurance recommendation, I would absolutely be questioning that advice, getting second opinions from the estate attorney and/or fee-only insurance advisors, and verify if there is compensation from the policy going to the MS advisor. Generally speaking, life insurance should ONLY be used when the client has a very illiquid taxable estate, and other planning avenues have been exhausted. Life insurance is not some "free lunch" to cover the estate tax as many insurance brokers make it out to be, and in a liquid situation like this, it's VERY simple to cover the estate tax liability combined with the step-up in basis.
Coltrane75
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Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:32 pm

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Coltrane75 »

I'm bumping this thread.
I'm also looking for an estate lawyer.

I'm in the boston area, does law school matter much? I'm finding lawyers that have been to a law school that doesn't require an LSAT for entry and whose bar passing rate is around 30%....
Gill
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Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:38 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Gill »

I agree with the OP's assertion that it doesn't appear this couple needs last-to-die life insurance. That type of insurance is only called for where there will be significant estate taxes involved AND the estate consists of a large illiquid asset such as a closely held business or real estate when it is desired to retain the asset for the ultimate beneficiaries.
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal
Topic Author
Br69102
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:21 am

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Br69102 »

Thanks for your responses and it is reassuring to hear that I'm thinking about the last-to-die insurance question correctly. I will do some more digging and look at the ACTEC directory and see what that brings up.
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GerryL
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Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by GerryL »

I found the estate attorney I'm currently working with through a presentation that was made at a group I belong to. The group sponsored a series of presentations on "Aging with Grace," and this particular session had to do specifically with estate planning.

Two lawyers from the firm delivered the non-commercial presentation and provided a substantive handbook about estate planning. Some months (a year?) later I got around to contacting the firm, a relatively small local law firm that includes a specialty in elder law. I set up an interview with one of the lawyers. I had to pay for the visit, but it gave me a chance to do a serious "hiring" interview. I have since found out that I know another person who works with this firm and have a friend with a law degree who knows and speaks highly of my attorney.

I found my LTCi broker through a presentation at a different affinity group meeting. These are not "free dinner" presentations. No actual selling is allowed. The information sessions, which may include various "specialists" in a subject, give you a chance to figure out what to look for.
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dodecahedron
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Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by dodecahedron »

GerryL wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 3:14 pm I found the estate attorney I'm currently working with through a presentation that was made at a group I belong to. The group sponsored a series of presentations on "Aging with Grace," and this particular session had to do specifically with estate planning.

Two lawyers from the firm delivered the non-commercial presentation and provided a substantive handbook about estate planning. Some months (a year?) later I got around to contacting the firm, a relatively small local law firm that includes a specialty in elder law. I set up an interview with one of the lawyers. I had to pay for the visit, but it gave me a chance to do a serious "hiring" interview. I have since found out that I know another person who works with this firm and have a friend with a law degree who knows and speaks highly of my attorney.

I found my LTCi broker through a presentation at a different affinity group meeting. These are not "free dinner" presentations. No actual selling is allowed. The information sessions, which may include various "specialists" in a subject, give you a chance to figure out what to look for.
Are either of these affinity groups local chapters/affiliates of a national group?
afan
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Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by afan »

Absolutely do not buy life insurance before creating an estate plan. If your friend does careful planning with an expert attorney and the ATTORNEY concludes that life insurance should be part of it, then and only then should the issue of insurance come up.
From what you describe, it seems unlikely there would be a need for insurance to pay estate taxes.
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama
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GerryL
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Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by GerryL »

dodecahedron wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 3:34 pm
GerryL wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 3:14 pm I found the estate attorney I'm currently working with through a presentation that was made at a group I belong to. The group sponsored a series of presentations on "Aging with Grace," and this particular session had to do specifically with estate planning.

Two lawyers from the firm delivered the non-commercial presentation and provided a substantive handbook about estate planning. Some months (a year?) later I got around to contacting the firm, a relatively small local law firm that includes a specialty in elder law. I set up an interview with one of the lawyers. I had to pay for the visit, but it gave me a chance to do a serious "hiring" interview. I have since found out that I know another person who works with this firm and have a friend with a law degree who knows and speaks highly of my attorney.

I found my LTCi broker through a presentation at a different affinity group meeting. These are not "free dinner" presentations. No actual selling is allowed. The information sessions, which may include various "specialists" in a subject, give you a chance to figure out what to look for.
Are either of these affinity groups local chapters/affiliates of a national group?
No. I use the term "affinity group" loosely. People with common concerns coming together.
One is a local virtual village (age-in-place volunteer-based organization, part of the https://www.vtvnetwork.org/) . The other was a support group for people caring for family with Alzheimer's.
BobZilla
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Joined: Sat Nov 21, 2020 12:53 pm

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by BobZilla »

Looking at individual attorneys ratings and reviews on Avvo.com may help you whittle it down some more or get some insight into whether others have had good or bad experiences with certain lawyers.

I’ve used the avvo ratings in the past to help find a suitable estate and trust attorney when I moved to a new state and knew no one in the local area. I ended up happy with my eventual choice.
bsteiner
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Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by bsteiner »

BobZilla wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:23 pm Looking at individual attorneys ratings and reviews on Avvo.com may help you whittle it down some more or get some insight into whether others have had good or bad experiences with certain lawyers.

I’ve used the avvo ratings in the past to help find a suitable estate and trust attorney when I moved to a new state and knew no one in the local area. I ended up happy with my eventual choice.
Martindale-Hubbell ratings at martindale.com are more useful than Avvo ratings. Martindale ratings (A is excellent, B is good in smaller cities) are based on ratings from peers. Avvo ratings can be gamed more easily.
Ben10
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Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Ben10 »

Some state bars like Florida (and Texas?) certify lawyers as specialists in wills, trusts and estates.
Topic Author
Br69102
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:21 am

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Br69102 »

Again, thanks to everyone that replied with suggestions. I'm sure as I try to decipher the myriad of investments that the Morgan Stanley advisor has chosen I'll have a multitude of other questions!
Fractalleaf
Posts: 80
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2020 6:30 pm

Re: Finding an Estate Attorney

Post by Fractalleaf »

A strategy that sometimes works is to seek referrals from peripheral professionals. Call the trust department of a regional bank and ask to speak to a trust officer. Ask the trust officer if they can suggest a few names of attorneys. Sometimes they’ll be helpful and sometimes the bank has a policy against providing referrals. The same goes for CPAs, they often know good attorneys. Medical doctors and other highly paid professionals usually have sophisticated estate plans and good social networks to obtain recommendations from others in their profession. Ask those people who they use.

In my experience the biographical information is of limited use, you want a personal recommendation from someone who has worked with the attorney and was satisfied with the result.
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