Picking the right attorney to assist with probate and estate matters is critical. The right attorney will guide you through the entire process while avoiding unnecessary conflict, stress, delays and expense. Here are a few tips to help you select the right attorney to assist you:

  1. If you do not know an attorney personally, you should begin by asking trusted family members and friends for recommendations.
  2. Conduct online research to find additional attorneys and find reviews on all attorneys under consideration.
  3. Consider the Three C’s when choosing an attorney: Character, Competence, Chemistry and Caring.
    1. Character: Is the attorney a person of integrity and moral character?
    2. Competence: Can the attorney navigate the legal system well on your behalf and carry out the requests of the decedent?
    3. Chemistry: Is this a person you feel comfortable working with, talking to—and most importantly, do you feel comfortable asking questions?
    4. Caring: Do you sense that this person truly cares about the task you are asking him/her to undertake?
  4. Interview several prospective attorneys. When you call to schedule the initial consultation, ask about the fee for an initial consultation. During the interview, you should investigate the following issues:
    1. Ask for a copy of the attorney’s Retainer Letter or Agreement. Take it home and read it before making a decision.
    2. Inquire about rates, fees and billing procedures. Will the attorney charge you a flat rate fee or an hourly rate? What are the payment terms? Ask to see a typical billing statement.
    3. Talk to the attorney about possible conflicts of interest. For example, has the attorney represented anyone else in your family, or another party who may have an interest in the estate? The attorney has an ethical duty to disclose any potential conflicts to you.
    4. Ask who will be doing your legal work—will it be the attorney or will he/she delegate the work to another attorney or a legal assistant? If so, you should ask to meet this person and you should find out whether that person’s billing rate is less than that of the attorney.
    5. Ask the attorney for their initial assessment of the case including any perceptible pitfalls, an estimated timeframe for completion of the work and an overview of what you can expect during the process.

Though some of this may seem uncomfortable, it can save you and everyone else involved in the matter from a lot of unnecessary stress, expense and conflict.