Trust Planning

Trust Planning

Estate Planning and Wealth Management

How to Find a Lawyer

Find Estate Attorneys, Trust Attorneys, Living Trust Attorneys, and Expert Witnesses

Finding a good lawyer -- in your state, in your specialty area, and who has the time to take on new clients -- is very hard to do. Finding a lawyer that is, in addition, affordable, ethical, and without an outsized ego that you keep tripping over... well, if you find one like that, don't hire them, marry them or have one of your children marry them.

A successful trust and estate law expert, when asked how to find a lawyer, suggested talking to people who work with lawyers. Ask who the best attorneys are, and once you get three people who name the same lawyer, you've probably found someone really good. People who work with estate and trust attorneys are: CPAs and accountants (find one's that don't work for banks), people who work with the elderly (like elder rights associations, elder law, registered nurses, etc.), people who can be hired to wrap up estates (they pay the bills, clean out buildings and put things up for sale), estate planners, trust litigators (if you are looking for an estate planning lawyer), estate planning attorneys (if looking for a trust litigating lawyer), court workers such as stenographers and law clerks, "general practice" lawyers (but be careful, they are liable to recommend their friends), financial planners (such as "fee-only financial planners" and financial planners for the very wealthy in your state), and the scions of society: the very wealthy families.

Other areas that may contain the competent attorney that you are looking for: ACTEC, state associations for trust and estate lawyers (Texas has one), elder law activists and clinics, university law schools.

Look up lawyers in Martindales, and, if at all possible, use lawyers rated 5 out of 5 in peer reviews (other lawyers rank your prospective lawyer as among the very best). Lawyer referral services, such as ones offered by state bar associations, do not have these built in screens and quality may be random.

Be wary of lawyers new to a state or new to practicing in their specialty, even if proven competent in other areas of the law, even if an old work horse in another area and even if they have clerking experience up the wazoo.

Finally, find two or three law firms specializing in legal malpractice (must be legal), and call them all and see if the lawyer you have chosen is competent and not being  sued by unhappy prior clients.

A few suggestions if you have tried the above and are stuck:

1. For trust litigation, if you are in a smaller state where all the good lawyers are already bought and paid for by the big players, consider a malpractice lawyer, especially a legal malpractice lawyer. They are seasoned litigators, unafraid of big business and other lawyers.

2. You can hire lawyers to do pieces of the work, even if you are suing a big trustee. Almost no lawyer will tell you this. They want you to think you have to sign a contract that gives them plenipotentiary powers over you, your case, and your money. There are lots of books out there on this subject. This is a good way to go. It could save you a lot of money.

3. For a smaller state, consider hiring an out-of-state lawyer expert in trusts. Many states are known to have similar trust laws and some trust & estate attorneys may live in another state but also maintain their license in your state. Out-of-state lawyers can work with an in-state lawyer, or get special permission to work with you and appear in court in your state.

OK. You Know How to Find a Lawyer. Now...
How to Hire a Lawyer

Sign a contract. Then the lawyer has an iron-clad obligation to you. Beware of being strung along by a lawyer who offers to help, but does not commit 100%.

But use your gut instinct on any contract. Do NOT try to negotiate the contract if it does not sit right with you. RUN the other way, and start over with another lawyer. 

Have a legal malpractice lawyer read over the contract (not your friend who went to law school), because a legal malpractice lawyer is who you are going to be calling if things do not go well. Use only a LEGAL malpractice lawyer IN THAT STATE. They will know if the law firm and lawyer you want to hire is often sued for malpractice.  

How to Find an Expert Witness
Criteria to Hire an Expert Witness

Many lawyers (in private) suggest spending most of your litigation budget on your expert witness(es). That may be single most important advice you can get in trust litigation.

Next most important is to find an expert witness who goes for the jugular. If they are worried about their reputation, rather than the truth, hire someone else.

Search nationally.

Hire someone who is at a point in their life where expert witness work is all they do. They used to be a lawyer and or trustee for a big bank; they did that for decades. They know all the dirty tricks, because they used to do them. Hire them.

Avoid hiring someone new to working as an expert witness. You can find a great forensic accountant, but if they are not familiar with the format and timing necessary for courts, it can be a disaster.

If you have read all of this, and still need some help finding a lawyer or finding an expert witness, let us help you.