Who is the best estate planning attorney in Minnesota? How do you find the best attorney for your will, trust, or other estate planning needs? These aren’t easy questions.
Unfortunately, finding the best estate planning attorney in Minnesota is not as easy as you might expect. Many attorneys dabble in doing a will, trust, or probate without adequate qualifications. Perhaps you have specific needs and want an attorney experienced in that niche.
Some attorneys are warm and friendly, but they lack the technical knowledge of other attorneys. Some attorneys are brilliant, but their client relations skills leave much to be desired. Other attorneys are poor managers, bad at time management, arrogant, or abrasive. You get the idea.
My work as an estate planning attorney has provided some observations that may be helpful as you find the best estate planning attorney for your circumstances.
Client Reviews of Attorneys
One popular approach to selecting the best estate planning attorney is to look at client reviews. Unfortunately, client reviews can be misleading. Some of the best estate planning attorneys in Minnesota have few or no client reviews online.
Online Ratings of Estate Planning Attorneys
Another common way to search for the best estate planning attorney is to look at online ratings by organizations like Avvo, Super Lawyers, or others. Unfortunately, these ratings are based more on a popularity contest than whether somebody is truly great at what they do. These rating services often accept votes from other attorneys to determine their ratings. Even worse, some rating services only feature or highlight attorneys in exchange for fees.
While these methods have their role, as noted above, both methods have flaws.
“Best” Estate Planning Attorney is Subjective
Perhaps more importantly, the best attorney for one individual may not be the best attorney for another, so there is no uniform way to identify the best attorney for all individuals.
For example, many estate planning attorneys have no knowledge of Medicaid to help people protect assets from nursing home and other long-term care costs. With nursing homes in Minnesota costing over $100,000 per year, nursing home asset protection planning is often an important part of designing an estate plan.
4 Questions to Consider
There are some ways to identify which estate planning attorney is best for you. Ask yourself what criteria are most important to you in selecting an estate planning attorney.
The following questions provide an example criteria for evaluating attorneys for your legal matter. You may find some of the questions are not relevant or important to you, in which case you can disregard them. Add the criteria that are relevant to your circumstances. Every person is different, so focus on the factors that are most important to you.
1. Does the attorney have substantial experience and expertise with your specific issue?
Is the attorney capable? Does the attorney have knowledge in your particular area? You might figure this out by looking at the attorney’s website, seeing if the attorney has written any legal articles on your issue, or asking other attorneys in the community to refer you to an attorney with deep knowledge in your specific issue.
2. Does the attorney have good business skills?
This is difficult to judge before you work with an attorney, but there are some signals you can watch. Does the attorney (or the attorney’s assistant) respond to you promptly, courteously, and a helpful manner when you contact the attorney? Does the attorney efficiently use technology like email?
Let’s face it, some attorneys are quirky, abrasive, bad listeners, or have other issues that may be problematic for you.
3. Is the attorney’s personality a good fit for you?
Are you comfortable working with this person? When you meet with an attorney, trust your gut. Do you like the attorney? Is the attorney a good listener who takes time to understand your concerns? If the first attorney you meet is just “okay,” meet with 1-2 others to identify which one is the right fit for your personality. In addition, consider the attorney’s staff because you may actually have more interactions with the staff than the individual attorney.
4. Are the attorney’s rates reasonable?
This is a tricky one. Some attorneys charge more per hour, but they cost less in the end because of the attorney’s expertise or efficiency. For example, one attorney may draft documents manually, while another attorney may leverage a paralegal (at a lower rate) or technology, which could save you money. Obviously, an attorney who can solve your problem in 20 minutes while charging $600 per hour ($200) is less expensive than an attorney who can solve your problem in 2 hours while charging $200 per hour ($400).
Personally, I try to avoid attorneys on either end of the spectrum (too low or too high). If the rates are too low, you have to wonder what is wrong with the attorney. Are they inexperienced? Do they have a bad record?
If the rates are too high, you may be unnecessarily paying a premium for an attorney with a big reputation – perhaps a less expensive attorney would be sufficient.
In the end, there is no best estate planning attorney for everyone, but the questions presented here can help you identify the best attorney for your legal issue, skill requirements, personality, and budget.