ACTEC Estate Planning Essentials

How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney


An estate planning attorney specializes in helping individuals and families create legal documents and strategies to manage their assets, plan for inheritance, and minimize taxes after death. Finding and choosing an estate planning attorney can be intimidating.

ACTEC Fellows Richard R. Gans and Linda A. Griffin offer tips for finding and interviewing lawyers. Learn where you can go online to find qualified estate planning attorneys in your area.

Linda A. Griffin
Richard R. Gans


Hello. This is Richard Gans, an ACTEC Fellow in Sarasota, Florida and I’m here today with Linda Griffin, a friend and an ACTEC Fellow in Clearwater Florida; and our topic today is how to locate a good estate planning or estate and trust administration attorney.

So Linda, there are a lot of lawyers out there. What’s a good first step in trying to locate a lawyer who is good and will take good care of you in doing estate planning and trust and estate administration work?

Linda Griffin:  Thank you for having me and good morning. Generally, when you’re looking for an estate planner, you want to find somebody who specializes in estate planning. So, on the Internet, you may find estate planners and you want to look for the specialty, and some states have board certification. I know Florida has board certification in wills, trusts and estates and that means that the attorney has taken a very rigorous test and specializes in estate planning. But the Internet and just looking for specialists and some kind of certification in the state that you’re looking for is a good first start.

Richard Gans:  Well thanks, Linda. That’s helpful. How do you go about finding that particular information in the public realm?

Linda Griffin:  Basically, you look on the Internet, and you look at the different sites for estate planning attorneys in the cities and states. Also, the best place to go is really referrals from other friends. And if you’ve used an attorney for real estate or family law, divorce, and you were happy with that attorney, they can often give you referrals to good estate planning attorneys. And just an overall – looking at the website to get a feel for the kind of practice they do and if you’re comfortable with them. There are a lot of estate planning attorneys and it’s important to vet those attorneys; and there are ways to vet those attorneys by just having some kind of interview process with them. Many attorneys will be able to sit down with you for 15 minutes or so and you can get a feel of whether you like them or not. And in estate planning, it is really important that you have that relationship since it is such a personal experience.

Richard Gans:  Linda, there are a lot of lawyer rating services out there on the Internet. How reliable do you think those are?

Linda Griffin:  That’s a great question because you see a lot of those ratings. Martindale Hubbell is a lawyer-to-lawyer rating service, which is pretty reliable. Some of the other rating services – we don’t really know what goes into those rating services. A client can have a negative remark about an attorney and that can skew the ratings when it really isn’t true about the attorney. Another good site to go to is – The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. These are attorneys who have been invited into the organization specifically because of their estate planning experience. So that is a good place to start.

Richard Gans:  Thank you, Linda, for that helpful advice and thanks very much for being here with me today.

ACTEC Estate Planning Essentials

ACTEC Fellows provide answers to frequently asked trust and estate planning questions in this video series.