5 questions to ask your estate planning lawyer


QuestionsI often write on this blog about the importance of seeing a lawyer to do your will and powers of attorney. Once you have made that decision, here are some important questions to ask your lawyer:

  1. What are your legal fees? This will depend in large part on what you are hiring your lawyer to do. To draft a single will and powers of attorney in a situation that is not overly complex, your lawyer may have a flat rate; for multiple wills or complex trusts, that may be different. Your lawyer should be able to give you an estimate at the outset.
  2. Do I need to prepare anything for our initial consultation? Your lawyer should be asking you some questions before you even come in for your first appointment. There may be documentation that your lawyer needs, or simply some questions that would be easier for you to answer with some planning. Regardless, unless you are seeing your lawyer on a few minutes’ notice, he or she should be asking you to bring some information with you.
  3. Where are you licenced to practice law? Some lawyers are licenced in more than one jurisdiction, so they can assist you with assets in more than one place. If they aren’t, and you have assets in more than one jurisdiction (such as your home in Ontario and a vacation property in Florida, for example), he or she may have a good connection in that other jurisdiction. You should never have documents prepared by a lawyer who is not licenced to practice where your estate is.
  4. If I have complex estate planning issues, can you answer all my questions? Many lawyers who draft wills also assist with estate administration. Ask your lawyer before assuming that you need to go to two different offices.
  5. Does my will need to be updated because of a life-changing event? Sometimes. In Ontario, a will is revoked on marriage but not on divorce; if you did your will before you had children, you will want to look at updating it to reflect that. Your lawyer will be able to tell you whether your will needs to be updated, and will be able to draft your initial will to anticipate certain life events.

Estate planning is not a simple area of law. If your lawyer can’t discuss these questions, you might want to ask yourself if estate planning is a primary part of their practice.