Hiring an Estate-Planning Attorney: The Interview

By Steve Barrett
Monday, January 30, 2017

Curiosity may kill the cat, but unasked questions are murder on an estate plan.

Physician Family Financial Advisors, based in Eugene, Oregon, urges physicians to get recommendations for an estate-planning attorney from their financial adviser or tax preparer, then ask specific questions and probe the attorney’s views on a series of subjects. The candidate’s answers to questions such as those below will not only provide basic information but also illuminate his or her overall approach.

Ask about the value of a revocable living trust, Physician Family Financial Advisors recommends on its website. While answers may vary, a response that doesn’t include a discussion of the administrative burden involved in trusts could be a red flag.

Find out how much estate planning will cost. Ironically, although the goal is to secure your finances to benefit family and, perhaps, charities, questions about costs can be uncomfortable. It’s better to deal with the discomfort early, however, than to be surprised later.

Ask if the attorney has clients who have been sued for malpractice. An attorney who has helped a physician make it through a difficult lawsuit probably has a good grasp of how to protect clients’ assets.

Determine how often the attorney believes you should interact with him or her.

“Ideally, physicians would consult their estate planners every time they take title to property or an account, especially if the doctor’s estate plan involves a trust,” Physician Family Financial Advisors notes.

How to Feel Ahead of the Retirement Game

Physicians needn’t be late in their careers to enjoy the sense that they are on a fast track to retirement security.

Approximately 10 percent of physicians in their 30s and 40s say their retirement plans are ahead of schedule, according to a recent survey by AMA Insurance, so an early sense of security may be the exception but it’s plainly not an impossibility.

Here are a few characteristics the survey found regarding clinicians who believe they are on their way to living the post-career lives they want:

  • They lean on the experts. Nearly seven in 10 have a professional financial adviser. Fewer than half who feel behind use an adviser.
  • They limit debt. Roughly 55 percent of the financially confident physicians carry consumer debt, compared with almost 90 percent of physicians who believe they have significant ground to make up.
  • They save. Four out of five physicians who consider themselves ahead of the game make the maximum contribution to a 401k or 403b, compared with only about half of those who are behind.
  • They think ahead. Physicians who are on a fast clip toward a secure retirement are twice as likely to have in place things such as an updated will or end-of-life directive. n