This is the third in a series of blogs on How to Practice in Estate Planning. I’ll sprinkle this series in among my typical timely blogs. This series is designed for attorneys who are currently practicing in another field and wish to transition to Estate Planning and Elder Law. However, many of the suggestions in this series will be equally applicable to a new attorney who is not transitioning from another area.
Step One was learning how to approach the practice of law as a business. Step Two was learning the basic substantive knowledge you need to practice in the estate planning area. Step Three is having forms upon which you can rely and a person or people whom you can consult for counsel.
There are many forms which you will need when starting your estate planning practice. In theory, you could create all your own forms, wills, trusts, etc. However, Rome was not built in a day. It would be much simpler to obtain your forms from some other source. For example, the trust documents used by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys have been refined and tweaked by experts in estate planning, trusts, and probate law for more than two decades. When we’ve seen what works, we keep it. When we find ways to make the documents better, we do that. Whether you need a simple trust, a trust with bypass trust provisions, an irrevocable trust, special needs trusts, Medicaid planning trusts, advanced tax planning trusts, etc., there are forms for that. There are dozens and dozens of different document forms. It is much, much easier to affiliate with an organization that has forms, rather than to try to reinvent the wheel yourself.
Next, is the availability of counsel. Sometimes, you can research and research and you simply cannot find an answer to your question. The question may be an easy one. The question may be a practical one. Or, the question may be complex. But, often it is difficult to find an answer or to find someone knowledgeable to discuss ideas. One of the advantages of a big law firm is the ability to walk down the hall and ask a senior partner a quick question. It’s essential that you find some way to ask a real person questions or be able to pick their brain on occasion. If you’ve developed a mentoring relationship with a senior partner in a big law firm, great! If not, it is vital to find that counsel elsewhere. For example, the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys offers one-on-one mentoring through its Education Department, where you can ask your questions of experienced attorneys. It’s the next best thing to walking down the hall and talking with the senior partner!
In the next blog in the series, I will discuss the importance of avoiding analysis paralysis.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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