The death of a loved one can mean that you will need to find an attorney to help with the process of estate settlement. While it isn't necessary to have an attorney prepare an advance directive, it can be advantageous to have one prepare your will or any other estate-related documents.
We have some suggestions to help you find the best attorney to provide the kind of legal services you need:
- Think specialization. You don't need just any attorney; you're looking for someone with experience in a particular aspect of the law.
- Ask around. There's nothing like a personal referral from someone you trust. Talk to friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to see if they can recommend an attorney with the right expertise.
- Get in touch with the local Bar Association. It will have directory of all practicing lawyers in your area.
- Visit legal aid websites - these organizations can provide you with trusted referrals and legal consultation services.
At this point, you should have a list of four or five recommended local attorneys. Now it's time to make that first call. You should first ask to set up a face-to-face meeting but be aware that many attorneys charge for this introductory session. That's why your first question should be:
Do you charge for the initial visit?
If you do agree to a face-to-face meeting, it's important to ask the following questions but be observant too. Look around: is the office organized? Is he or she listening closely to what you have to say? What is your gut feeling to what you're seeing and hearing? Trust your intuition; if you don't feel you are a good match, then move on to the next attorney on your list.
The questions to ask in your initial interview are:
- Do you specialize in my type of case?
- Do you have any special credentials?
- Exactly who will handle my case; the attorney or a paralegal?
- Who will be my point-of-contact?
- What's the preferred way to communicate with your office?
- Will I be billed for phone calls and email correspondence with either the attorney or staff?
- How will I be informed about any progress in my case?
- How will fees be calculated? Hourly, contingency, or flat fee? If I will be billed hourly, will I be required to pay for portions of an hour?
- What expenses am I responsible for?
- How often can I expect to receive a bill?
- Is advance payment required? What happens to that money if I terminate the case before it's resolved?
- Will I receive copies of all documents pertaining to my case?
- When you're satisfied you've found the right attorney at the right price, always ask for a written agreement and read it thoroughly. If you have questions about what you've read, ask them before you sign.
Liz Davidson, "How to Find a Good Lawyer When You Really Need One"
Consumer Reports, "When You Need to Lawyer Up"
Henry, Alan, "How to Find a Reputable Lawyer"