This is the seventh 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. Step Four is avoiding analysis paralysis and actually applying what you’ve learned. Step Five is joining local Estate Planning and Elder Law chapters and attending those events. Step Six is to subscribe to estate planning publications and follow blogs that will help you in your estate planning practice. Step Seven is learning other subject matter which is integrally related to estate planning.
Estate planning is the nexus of several different areas of the law. In Step Two, I set forth the primary substantive matter which is basic to the trusts & estates and elder law areas. However, in order to be truly proficient in this area, you’ll want to know additional information.
The following law school courses would be quite helpful in a trusts & estates practice:
- Trusts & Estates
- Estate Planning
- Estate & Gift Taxation
- Income Taxation
- Partnership Taxation
- Community Property
- Domestic Relations
- Professional Responsibility
While there are surely other relevant courses, these would be the most useful to review. Even if you took these courses in law school, the vast majority of us could stand to brush up. Perhaps the quickest way to brush up in these areas is to review a course outline of the subject. Typically, you can find such outlines at your local law school library or online. The outlines will give you an overview much faster than a treatise would.
Why would basic law school courses be helpful? For example, you’ll want to know basic Property law concepts so that you will know what might best fit your client’s situation. Maybe a life estate is best. If you do not know that is a possibility, you would overlook that as an option. As another example, a Corporations course would be helpful so that you understand the basic structure of the asset which many clients own.
Don’t forget Step Four and get too mired in the courses or outlines. Budget a set amount of time each month for this project. Perhaps you set aside one day or one afternoon per month for this endeavor.
In the next blog in this series, I’ll discuss Step Eight, which is what to keep your eye on every year, even after you’re a seasoned trusts & estates (or elder law) practitioner.
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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