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Finding the comfort zone with a California attorney

The advice of a friend or family member can be valuable, but there are times when what's right for someone else doesn't work for you. It's common practice in southern California to ask someone you trust for advice or a referral.

The suggestion is often based on the experience of a relative or friend who used "this" pediatrician to treat a child or "that" lawyer to settle a divorce. A person in search of an estate planning specialist can appreciate a relative's heartfelt recommendation for a multipurpose attorney. Would that be the right person to handle a special needs trust or complex asset distribution? Probably not.

Any good attorney can help a client create a simple will or trust; however, that's not such a good fit for people with sizeable wealth, assets, or numerous heirs and beneficiaries.

Estate planning law is not static. Changes in the law or expectations of changes occur frequently. The effects of an estate plan last a lifetime and beyond, while involving people over several possible generations. Assets meant for others require management, protection and tax advice, which not every attorney can provide.

Comfort level is another consideration when choosing an attorney to help create an estate plan. All attorneys are bound by law and Rules of Professional Conduct to keep their dealings with clients private. Since confidentiality is a given, clients often select particular lawyers who make them feel at ease discussing difficult topics.

Death is one of those subjects. A client must feel that an estate planning attorney is more than knowledgeable to establish a relationship. After all, the lawyer may have to learn the family secrets to help a client draft an effective plan - the adult child who cannot be responsible with money or the ex-wife who could inherit a business.

Clients must be satisfied with confiding in an attorney or all the legal expertise in the world won't help.

Source: nwitimes.com, "ESTATE PLANNING: Feeling comfortable with your adviser," Christopher Yugo, Jan. 26, 2013

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